Teen Dies After Parasitic Tapeworm Burrows Into Brain

The tapeworm infestation led to cysts over the patients brain and testicle.

An ambulance is parked outside the Accident and Emergency department of Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
Matt Cardy / Getty Images

The tapeworm infestation led to cysts over the patients brain and testicle.

A recent case study published in the The New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday reports the death of an 18-year-old teen from a tapeworm infestation in his brain. As CNN reports, the teen complained of seizures after visiting an emergency room in an Indian hospital, which led to an examination that revealed the presence of the parasites.

After entering the hospital, the medical team noticed that the teen had swelling over his right eye and appeared confused. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan revealed multiple well-defined cysts on his brain stem, cerebral cortex, cerebellum, eye, and right testicle. The team diagnosed him with neurocysticercosis, which is an infection caused by cysts that contain the larvae of a pork tapeworm, Taenia solium. These larvae hatch from their eggs and enter the brain and muscle tissues, which leads to the formation of cysts.

The seizures the teen experienced were tonic-clonic in nature, which means they create violent muscle contractions and can cause sufferers to lose consciousness. In addition, the teen experienced pain in his groin for approximately a week, as per USA Today.

Due to the number of cysts and their locations, the doctors did not give the teen antiparasitic medications, which can exacerbate inflammation and brain bleeding and also cause a loss of vision. They opted instead to administer dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory drug, along with antiepileptic medications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that neurocysticercosis is contracted when an individual swallows “microscopic eggs passed in the feces of a person who has an intestinal pork tapeworm.” It is the leading cause of epilepsy worldwide, per the World Health Organization (WHO). In the United States alone, there are an estimated 1,000 new hospitalizations connected to the disease each year.

Loading...

But the pork tapeworm is most common in developing nations, such as Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The illness that it creates can be life-threatening and fatal, as observed in the current case. CBS News reports that preventing Taenia solium infections requires a variety of public health interventions, such as improving the identification and treatment of patients.

According to Outbreak News Today, a pork tapeworm outbreak spread through Vietnam early last week. It has reportedly affected at least 209 children in the northern province of Bac Ninh. Officials claim that the province is planning to cover costs for testing the students of the preschools in the affected region.

Although the source of the tapeworms has yet to be confirmed, potentially infected pork was discovered in Thanh Khuong Kindergarten in Thuan Thanh District back in February.