Recently I read a news report about 23cm long tape worm in the brain of a woman; which the surgeons removed surgically. The heading of news item was. “Doctors in Jiangsu Provincial People's Hospital in Nanjing removed a 23-centimeter-long parasitic worm from the brain of a young woman” the worm was alive and wriggling. When I read the whole story I was wonder struck and amazed that such a long tape worm can live in the brain of man for six months. Many questions/queries were raised in my mind out of curiosity. I instantly thought to write factoids to makepeople know about this peculiar and dangerous worm so that they may take timely action. How it goes to brain? How it can trigger epilepsy like seizures. How it can trigger fits and seizures of unknown pathology? How it can cause severe headache? In the first instance it seems unbelievable that such a 23 cm long, flat worm can thrive in human brain. Who can deny this fact, neurosurgery has confirmed it.
Tapeworms causing the above narrated symptoms belong to the phylum Platyhelminthes. Its members live and thrive in the digestive tract of vertebrates as adults, and often in the bodies of various animals as juveniles. These are also called flatworms. Platyhelminthes are a phylum of relatively simple bilateral, unregimented, soft-bodied invertebrate animals. Unlike other bilaterians, these bilateral are characterized by no body cavity, and no specialized circulatory and respiratory organs, which restrict them to flattened shapes that allow oxygen and nutrients to pass through their bodies. There are estimated. Fifty million people worldwide are affected with this infection and are totally ignorant of it. Even if once you have eaten uncooked pork there is every possibility that you could have been infected with this parasite.
How the flat worm reaches to brain?
This worm mostly found in pigs (Tenia solium) cows and buffaloes (Tenium saginata). Pork meat (cysticercus cellulose) and beef (cysticercus bovis) both kinds of meat are the rich source of this worm infection. People who eat the raw or uncooked/unboiled food can have this worm called’ Tenia saginata’ Or Tenia solium. It is also commonly known as the pork tape worm or beef tape worm Tenia completes its life circle in two hosts. The definite host is man which harbour adult worms. The intermediate host is the cattle (cow or buffalo) and pigs. These cattle harbour the larval stage of the flat worm. How this worm goes to brain? To understand this puzzle the study and understanding of its life circle is necessary
Life circle of worm (Tenia)
Humans are the only definite host for T.S. and can not act as intermediate host. The adult worm lives in the small intestines of man. The eggs or gravid segments are passed out with the faeces (stool) on the ground. The animal’s cow, buffalo swallow these eggs while grazing in the field. The pigs directly swallow man’s stool. Cattle and other herbivores become infected by ingesting vegetation contaminated with eggs. On reaching the alimentary canal of the intermediate host, the radically striated walls of eggs rupture and oncosheres area liberated. These penetrate the gut wall with the aid of their hooks and gain entrance into portal vessels or mesenteric lymphatics, finally reaching the systemic circulation. Usually they travel via the portal vein, and successfully reach the following organs: the liver, the right side of heart, lungs, the left side of the heart and systemic circulation the naked oncosphere are filtered out from the circulating blood
Why do convulsions occur?
The convulsions occur due to the formation of granuloma in the brain tissues. Granuloma is aggregates of macrophages. This granuloma presses against the nerves thus triggering the seizures and convulsions. The pressure of the granuloma also causes headache. The severity of the headache depends on the intensity of tissues of brain pressed or involved.
If any person is suffering from epileptic like seizures occasionally and having periodical headache than he should immediately recourse to MRI scan. The patient suddenly falls to ground unconscious with right or left side being paralyzed .which side of body is affected? This shows the location of worm in the brain. Our right side of body is controlled by left brain and left side of body is controlled by right brain. The MRI scan or electroencephalogram scanning generally detects granuloma in one side of the brain. The side may be right or left depending on the thriving place of the worm. Granuloma in brain is caused by calcification of worm.
How to avoid this worm?
We should never eat meat especially the swine flesh called pork. Swines are the main source of this worm infection. Swine eating is totally prohibited in Islam and Quaran. The Muslims never eat the flesh of pork’s perhaps they know the health hazards /dangers involved in eating pork. Even the vegetables we eat should be properly washed and cooked. The cysts of this worm can also thrive on vegetables. Those persons who are strictly vegetarians can also have this worm infection from vegetables. The worm may exist on vegetables in cyst form.