(VitalNews.org) – A woman from New South Wales, Australia, has become the first patient ever recorded to have a 3-inch-long roundworm pulled from her brain. Both patient and worm survived the unexpected discovery, which was made after the woman underwent surgery in Canberra Hospital.
The woman had been suffering from mysterious symptoms, including abdominal pains, dry coughs, and night sweats for several years, and was first admitted to hospital in January 2021 at the age of 64. By the following year, her list of strange symptoms had expanded to include depression and forgetfulness. She was taken into hospital once more for an MRI scan which showed evidence of an unusual lesion in her brain. It was ultimately decided that the woman’s issues required further investigation, and she was scheduled for surgery.
Dr Hari Priya Bandi, the woman’s neurosurgeon, spoke of her shock at finding the worm in the woman’s brain. She explained that she had not expected to find a parasite, but that when she used her forceps to pull at an unexpected object, she managed to extract an 8cm (3.14 inches) long worm, still alive and wriggling and a pale red in color. She placed the specimen into a container and immediately began discussions with colleagues about what the creature was, and how best to treat the woman after her surgery.
Dr Bandi and her colleagues decided to send the worm to another colleague in Canberra with expertise in parasites, who was immediately able to identify it as Ophidascaris robertsi, a roundworm whose larvae are normally found in marsupials and small mammals. These animals are in turn eaten by others, including the carpet python. Experts looking at the woman’s case have suggested she may have ingested some of the eggs or larvae after cooking and eating Warrigal greens, a type of native grass. The area from which she harvested the greens is home to a population of carpet pythons, who may have shed the eggs or larvae by defecating in the area.
Doctors at the Canberra Hospital have praised the woman’s courage in the face of her yearslong ordeal, and say they continue to monitor her health after the removal of the worm.
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