Doctors have spotted a worm moving in the brain of a patient after years of suffering worrying symptoms.
The parasite was discovered in a 64-year-old Australian woman last year.
After years of health problems, she was undergoing brain surgery at a Canberra hospital when the 3-inch-long creature was discovered, The Guardian reported.
At this point, Dr. Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious disease specialist, was called into the operating room.
“Oh my god, you wouldn’t believe what I just found inside this lady’s brain,” said the surgeon, Dr. Hari Priya Bandi, to him.
“And it’s alive and wriggling.”
The unknown patient began experiencing problems in January 2021 when she suffered from abdominal pain and diarrhea, followed by a persistent dry cough and fever.
In 2022, her symptoms also included depression and forgetfulness.
This prompted doctors to perform an MRI scan, during which they detected an abnormality and recommended surgery.
“But the neurosurgeon certainly didn’t go in there thinking he was going to find a wriggling worm,” Senanayake said.
“It was a unique discovery. Nobody expected it.”
After struggling to identify the creature, doctors at the hospital went to a nearby lab, where a scientist concluded it was an Ophidascaris robertsi.
This type of roundworm is generally found in pythons.
This patient was the first time one of the parasites was found in a human.
“This poor patient was so brave and wonderful,” said Senanayake.
“You wouldn’t want to be the first patient in the world to have roundworm in pythons and we really salute her. She was wonderful.”
Though she never came into direct contact with a python, she did live near a lake where the snakes occur.
The woman had harvested edible grasses for food around the lake.
Scientists think she may have contracted the parasite as a result.
Senanayake said the patient is now recovering well.
She had to be given medication to ensure there were no larvae left in her body.
Because her case is the first of its kind, doctors had to be careful about the treatment they prescribed.
Researchers are now investigating whether the woman has a genetic abnormality that makes it easier for the larvae to establish themselves in her body.