Doctors in Australia witnessed and unprecedented medical moment when they discovered and removed a giant live worm from a woman’s brain.
Surgeon Hari Priya Bandi recounted her astonishment upon discovering a live worm within a patient’s brain during a biopsy. This unprecedented occurrence took place in Australia, as the 64-year-old woman from New South Wales sought treatment due to perplexing symptoms, including forgetfulness.
In late January 2021, the woman had been admitted to a local hospital after experiencing several weeks of abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. Gradually, her condition escalated, presenting respiratory issues and abnormalities within her lungs and liver. Alarming signs of forgetfulness and depression further complicated her case.
Medical imaging initially suggested the presence of a tumor, prompting an MRI scan. However, the subsequent biopsy in June 2022 unveiled an extraordinary revelation that left medical professionals in disbelief.
Dr. Bandi, leading the biopsy, expressed her astonishment, stating, “Discoveries of this nature are exceedingly rare, and encountering such a phenomenon was utterly astonishing.”
“We don’t find things that are surprising and when we do, that’s just unheard of,” said Bandi.
Yet there it was on the right frontal lobe of the patient’s brain, not a malignant growth, but rather an active parasitic worm, measuring approximately 80 millimeters (3 inches) in length and 1 millimeter in diameter.
Dr. Bandi described her immediate reaction upon encountering the living parasite, recounting, “I then picked it up and just went ‘look at it, what is that… It’s moving. Let’s take it out,” Bandi said, according to NBC News. “There was a moment for me for just feeling a bit nauseated,” she added.
The distinctive worm, known as “Ophidascaris robertsi,” is typically associated with pythons, making its presence within a human body an unparalleled discovery, said Dr. Sanjaya Senanayake, an expert in Infectious Diseases who was attending to patients at Canberra Hospital when he was contacted by his neurosurgical colleagues regarding the astonishing case.
“This is something we’ve never seen in a human being,” he said.
The parasite, measuring three inches in length, typically inhabits small mammals and marsupials. Dr. Senanayake clarified that the worm’s migration into the human body was unprecedented and abnormal. The worm’s journey took it through the woman’s respiratory system, liver, and eventually, her brain.
Investigators postulate that the patient’s residence near a lake inhabited by carpet pythons played a role in the worm’s unusual presence. Although direct contact with snakes was ruled out, the woman frequently collected native plants from the lake’s vicinity for culinary use. This behavior led experts to theorize that she inadvertently consumed the worm’s eggs due to contaminated vegetation.
Researchers emphasize that these larvae are remarkably resilient within animal hosts and can endure for extended periods. As a result, they caution that similar instances involving humans could arise.
This phenomenon, Dr. Senanayake explained, is a consequence of humans encroaching upon natural animal habitats. He further predicted an increase in such infections, underscoring the need to address the effects of human intrusion into these ecosystems.