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    Man Suffering From Headaches Discovers A Tapeworm Living In His Brain

    Doctors think the worm may have burrowed through his body to his brain.

    A parasitic tapeworm has been found in the brain of a man who complained of headaches for four years.

    National News and Pictures

    Doctors at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and researchers at the nearby Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute discovered the creature, 1cm in length, had moved 5cm through the 50-year-old’s brain.

    The parasite, known as spirometra erinaceieuropaei, causes inflammation of tissues, which can lead to memory loss, seizures and headaches, Sky News reported.

    The man had first visited doctors in 2008 complaining of the symptoms and saying his sense of smell had changed, the Telegraph said.

    An MRI scan showed lesions in his brain but doctors were unsure of the cause and tested the man for lime disease, syphilis and HIV, the newspaper added.

    In 2012 though the remains of a larval worm were discovered among brain tissue and the condition was diagnosed.

    The man has since been treated and made a full recovery.

    It is not known how the man got the infection but the Guardian reported it has been suggested he may have picked up the parasite during one of his regular trips from East Anglia to China.

    The paper adds:

    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.

    It has also been suggested that some people become infected through using a raw frog poultice as a Chinese remedy to calm sore eyes.

    Only 300 cases of the infection have been reported worldwide since 1953.

    Dr Effrossyni Gkrania-Klotsas, from the Department of Infectious Disease at Addenbrooke's NHS Trust, is quoted by the Telegraph as saying: "We did not expect to see an infection of this kind in the UK, but global travel means that unfamiliar parasites do sometimes appear."

    According to the Guardian, Dr Hayley Bennett, from Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, also said:

    This worm is quite mysterious and we don't know everything about what species it can infect or how. Humans are a rare and accidental host for this particular worm.

    It remains as a larva throughout the infection. We know from the genome that the worm has fatty acid binding proteins that might help it scavenge fatty acids and energy from its environment, which may be one the mechanisms for how it gets its food.

    The case was documented in the medical journal Genome Biology.

    Richard James is the News Director for BuzzFeed Australia and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Richard James at

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