Eight-year-old’s brain was infested with 100 tapeworm eggs causing her to suffer epileptic seizures: Girl became ill after eating unwashed fruit or uncooked pork
- Unnamed girl was initially treated with steroids for suspected brain cysts
- Medication caused her to balloon from 88lb (40kg) to 132lb (60kg)
- Over six months, she also became breathless and unable to walk
- Hospital scans later revealed she was suffering from neurocysticercosis
- After treatment killed the eggs, the girl has recovered and is walking again
An eight-year-old girl suffered crippling headaches and epileptic seizures after her brain became infested with 100 tapeworm eggs.
The unnamed girl, from New Delhi, was initially treated with a high dose of steroids for suspected brain cysts.
Rather than cure her symptoms, the medication caused her to balloon from 88lb (40kg) to 132lb (60kg), and left her breathless and unable to walk.
Six months later, the girl’s desperate parents took her to Fortis Hopsital in Gurgaon, where scans revealed she was suffering from a condition known as neurocysticercosis.
The eggs are thought to have traveled via the bloodstream to her brain from her stomach after she ate unwashed fruit or vegetables, or undercooked pork.
After undergoing treatment to kill the eggs, the girl gradually recovered and is able to walk again.
Scan shows the infestation of tapeworm eggs (shown as white circles) in a girl’s brain
The eggs, seen from a front angle of the brain, were initially misdiagnosed as brain cysts
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‘We had no idea our daughter could get such a dreadful disease’
The girl’s treatment began with medication to reduce the swelling, followed by therapy to kill the tapeworms.
She has since lost all the weight she gained while on steroids and has returned to school.
The girl’s father, who declined to be named, said: ‘We had absolutely no idea that our healthy and cheerful daughter could ever get such a dreadful disease.
‘But I think we are extremely lucky to get [the] right treatment before [the] eggs hatched and do more damage to our daughter’s brain.’
WHAT IS NEUROCYSTICERCOSIS?
Neurocysticercosis is a parasitic infestation caused by larval cysts of the pork tapeworm Taenia solium.
These cysts can enter the brain, leading to life-threatening seizures.
People develop the condition by eating undercooked pork.
They may also swallow microscopic eggs passed in the faeces of a person with an intestinal tapeworm if they do not properly wash their hands after going to the toilet and contaminate surfaces or uncooked food.
The World Health Organization recognises neurocysticercosis as a leading cause of adult epilepsy worldwide.
Neurocysticercosis can be prevented through proper handwashing.
Treatment often involves medication to reduce swelling in the brain and kill tapeworms.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
When medication for cysts failed to improve her symptoms, the girl’s parents took her to hospital where she had brain scans that revealed the extent of the infestation (eggs shown)
Caused by unwashed fruit or uncooked pork
Praveen Gupta, director of neurology at Fortis Hospital, said: ‘The scan of [the] girl’s brain showed more than a 100 white dots, formed due to tapeworm eggs.
‘Such an infection is caused by accidentally eating foods infested by tapeworms.
‘When eggs reach the brain through the nervous system they cause neurocysticercosis, which is characterised by a severe headache, epileptic seizures and confusion.
‘People often don’t know, but tapeworm infestation of the brain is fairly common.
‘The parasitic infestation is caused by accidentally eating improperly washed fruits, vegetables and undercooked meat infected by the pork tapeworm Taenia solium.’
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises tapeworm infestation of the central nervous system as a leading cause of epilepsy.
According to the WHO, neurocysticercosis is the most preventable cause of epilepsy worldwide and is estimated to be behind 30 per cent of all cases.
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