An 18-year-old man who went to the emergency room after suffering seizures soon discovered he had parasites in his brain, according to a case study published Wednesday.
In addition to tonic-clonic seizures, during which a person can lose consciousness and experience violent muscle contractions, the man’s parents said he’d been having pain in his groin for a week, according to the study published in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.
During an examination, the man appeared confused and had swelling over his right eye, according to the report from Nishanth Dev and S. Zafar Abbas at the ESIC Medical College and Hospital, Faridabad, India.
An MRI and ultrasound would soon reveal the cause of his symptoms: several well-defined cysts in his cerebral cortex, brain stem, cerebellum, eye and right testicle. His diagnosis: neurocysticercosis, a parasitic infection caused by cysts containing the larvae of a pork tapeworm.
Neurocysticercosis is the most severe form of the disease and can be contracted when a person swallows “microscopic eggs passed in the feces of a person who has an intestinal pork tapeworm,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Once inside the body, the tapeworm’s eggs hatch and become larvae that travel to the brain, causing the potentially fatal infection.
Doctors decided not to give the young man antiparasitic medication because of the high number of cysts and the possibility it would worsen swelling in the brain and inflammation. Given the cysts near his eye, inflammation could’ve led to a loss of vision.
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The patient was instead given dexamethasone, often used to treat inflammation, and anti-seizure medication. He died two weeks later.
The study did not identify the man.
Neurocysticercosis is a leading cause of epilepsy worldwide according to the World Health Organization. Although the disease is prevalent mainly in developing countries, the CDC estimates there are 1,000 new hospitalizations related to the disease in the United States each year.
Treatment can be incredibly costly: the average charge for hospitalization related to the disease was $37,600, according to the CDC.
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