(PCM) Oh, the absolute horror; this is honestly the stuff of nightmares. A man suffering from severe headaches discovered that the source of his constant perturbation was a species of tapeworm rarely seen in humans, Spirometra erinaceieuropaei.
The man ended FOUR YEARS of headaches that started in 2008 and gradually became compounded with seizures and issues with his sense of smell when an MRI revealed the rare tapeworm wriggling its way through his pink matter in 2012.
The Spirometra erinaceieuropaei has only been documented in 300 human cases, making this most recent case, discovered in the U.K., an oddity.
It is currently unclear how the 50 year-old Chinese man became afflicted with the parasite, but The Guardian speculates that he could have picked up the parasite during one of his visits to China, writing: “exactly how he came to be infected is not known, but he could have picked it up from infected meat or water and the worm then burrowed through his body to his brain.”
Spirometra erinaceieuropaei, commonly found in rats, birds, snakes, frogs, mice, cats, and dogs, is so rare that up until now very little was known about the parasite.
With the discovery of the tapeworm, which had grown up to 1cm in length and traveled a distance of 5cm from the right side of his brain to the left, scientists were able to sequence the genome of Spirometra erinaceieuropaei, providing more insight on where the parasite comes from and how it has evolved.
The research from the genome sequencing was published on November 21, 2014 in the medical journal, Genome Biology, and found that this species of tapeworm has a genome 10x longer than any other tapeworm.
Scientists have speculated that the tapeworm was able to survive for four years in the man’s brain by absorbing fats through the lining of its skin.
After using an MRI to diagnose the man with sparganosis, an infection caused by a parasite that inflames the brain causing seizures, headaches, memory loss, and can affect the sense of smell, doctors treated the man and cured him of his horrific ailment.
While it is highly unlikely that any other cases of Spirometra erinaceieuropaei will start cropping up, the thought of having a tapeworm burrow its way through your brain is enough to make anyone want to never set foot outside again.