Surgeon Finds Live 3-Inch Worm in Woman’s Brain After She Becomes ‘Accidental Host’

The parasite was found during brain surgery in Australia and is said to a be a world first

A woman in Australia is recovering from having a live 3-inch worm removed from her brain.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Hari Priya Bandi pulled out the live parasitic roundworm during surgery on the 64-year-old, reported CNN. It is believed to be the first-ever discovery of a live worm inside a human brain.

“I’ve only come across worms using my not-so-good gardening skills…I find them terrifying and this is not something I deal with at all,” Bandi told CNN.

The parasite was pulled from the patient's damaged frontal lobe during surgery in Canberra in June 2022, per the BBC. It is thought the red worm could have been in the woman’s brain for up to two months, added the outlet.

<p>Hossain M/Kennedy KJ/Wilson HL</p>

Hossain M/Kennedy KJ/Wilson HL

"Everyone [in] that operating theatre got the shock of their life when [the surgeon] took some forceps to pick up an abnormality and the abnormality turned out to be a wriggling, live 8cm light red worm," said Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious diseases doctor at Canberra Hospital, according to the BBC.

"Even if you take away the yuck factor, this is a new infection never documented before in a human being."

<p>Hossain M/Kennedy KJ/Wilson HL</p> The surgery took place in Australia

Hossain M/Kennedy KJ/Wilson HL

The surgery took place in Australia

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The parasite was sent to an animal parasitology expert at a governmental scientific research agency, reported CNN. According to a release from the Australian National University and the Canberra Hospital, tests confirmed it was an Ophidascaris robertsi, a roundworm usually found in pythons. 

The patient lived near a lake area in New South Wales inhabited by carpet pythons. It’s thought she caught the roundworm after foraging for a leafy vegetable called Warrigal greens, which she cooked and ate. Doctors and scientists believe that a snake may have spread the parasite via its feces into the greens, according to CNN.

<p>Hossain M/Kennedy KJ/Wilson HL</p> The 64-year-old woman is said to be recovering well

Hossain M/Kennedy KJ/Wilson HL

The 64-year-old woman is said to be recovering well

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Senanayake said it’s likely the woman then became the “accidental host” for the worm.

In January 2021, she was admitted to a local hospital after suffering three weeks of abdominal pain and diarrhea. She also had a constant dry cough, fever and night sweats, per CNN. Her symptoms later developed into increasing forgetfulness and depression.

She was then admitted to a hospital in Canberra, where an MRI scan revealed something unusual in her right frontal lobe.

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The woman is said to be recovering well, according to the BBC.

Senanayake said it’s likely this will not be the last case we see of its kind.

"This Ophidascaris infection does not transmit between people, so it won’t cause a pandemic like SARS, COVID-19 or Ebola. However, the snake and parasite are found in other parts of the world, so it is likely that other cases will be recognized in coming years in other countries,” he told CNN.

“The other message from this case is about foraging. People who forage should wash their hands after touching foraged products. Any foraged material used for salads or cooking should also be thoroughly washed."

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