In September 2018, Rachel Palma, a resident of Middletown, New York was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The case was a rather unusual one. Rachel had been experiencing a number of odd symptoms for a considerably long time. She had been complaining about hallucination, difficulty speaking and impaired cognition. She had been visiting the emergency rooms for quite a while but to no luck. Until finally, the chief neurosurgeons scheduled Rachel for a brain scan.
When the first results of the scan were out, the doctor observed a small tumor about the size of a marble. On further dissection of the brain tissue, an egg-shaped injured area was discovered, more tapered at one end. Finally to the success of the neurosurgeons, a baby tapeworm was found!
Living with the thought of a brain tumour was horrifying for Rachel at first. But after knowing about the presence of tapeworm, was bitterly sweet for her. Although weirded out, she nonetheless is able to sigh a big relief. Fortunately, no extensive further treatment was required anymore.
Doctors, on the other hand, diagnosed Rachel with neurocysticercosis, a parasitic infection that results after the ingestion of pork tapeworm eggs. The infection is rare, but if left untreated can get complicated. From available empirical data, it is believed that the condition can lead to a seizure.
Only after few more consultation, Rachel is all set to be discharged from the hospital. She has been advised weeks of rest before continuing her normal course of life. Additionally, doctors have told her to be cautious and avoid contamination from any viable source.
So what is it about neurocysticercosis that has caught the attention of medical experts?
Neurocysticercosis- Tapeworm found in brain
The microscopic eggs are able to pass through the body of any individual who has intestinal adult tapeworm infection. While there are manifold ways that can happen the eggs usually pass through the feces. If caution is not exhibited (e.g. not washing their hands) then they may contaminate other places with the eggs. That is how the eggs transfer to somebody else and perhaps explains the case of Rachel Palma’s diagnosis. If eggs, somehow, travel to the brain they turn into larvae resulting in a condition called neurocysticercosis.
There have not been many reported cases of neurocysticercosis. The disease remains incredibly rare with a total infliction rate of less than 1%. According to one documented report, only about 1000 hospitalized cases in the US are reported every year.
Doctors believe that the carrier is likely to have been exposed to tapeworm infection outside the US. The statistics tell us exactly that. Most of the known transmitters hail from areas where the condition remains endemic including parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa. The US travel system is unable to scan the travellers on arrival which explain why it is difficult to curb the problem in its entirety.
That being said, there is still a need to be worried about the problem. Particularly due to the fact that we fail to protect ourselves on a daily basis. What is essentially required is that any means of contamination should be avoided in the best way possible.