A teen died after tapeworm eggs hatched and formed cysts in his brain

The New England Journal of Medicine ©2019Doctors diagnosed him with neurocysticercosis.
  • Doctors found that a teenage boy’s brain was infected with tapeworm eggs when he came to the emergency room after having intense seizures.
  • Doctors diagnosed him with neurocysticercosis, a parasitic disease that occurs when a person accidentally ingests tapeworm eggs, usually from consuming undercooked food or contaminated water.
  • Although the doctors gave the teenager medications to help with the seizures and swelling, he died two weeks later.
  • Nishanth Dev, MD, one of the lead doctors on the case, told INSIDER that he’s seen instances of neurocysticercosis in the past, but none as severe as the teenage boy’s case.

When an 18-year-old showed up at an emergency room in India with swelling in one eye and severe seizures that caused him to go unconscious, doctors found that his brain was infected with tapeworm eggs, according to a case study published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Doctors performed MRI scans to diagnose the teenager with neurocysticercosisa, a parasitic disease that occurs when a person accidentally ingests tapeworm eggs and they hatch and infect the brain. Despite treatment, the patient died two weeks later.

Tapeworm eggs can often spread through undercooked pork that has been infected, Nishanth Dev, MD, one of the lead doctors on the case, told INSIDER. The disease can’t be spread through human contact.

Worm parasiteThe New England Journal of Medicine ©2018Tapeworm eggs are often found in undercooked pork.

Once the tapeworm eggs are in a person’s body, the larvae infect the muscles and brain, causing cysts. In the teenager’s case, cysts appeared in his brain, right eye, and right testicle.


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“I have seen many cases of disseminated cysticercosis prior to this case, but definitely not with such a burden of the cyst all over the brain and other parts of the body,” Dev said.

Dev and his colleague gave the patient anti-inflammatory and anti-epileptic medications to help with swelling and seizures, respectively, but they decided against giving him anti-parasite treatment since it can often cause further inflammation and brain swelling. Unfortunately, the patient died two weeks later.

Cysticercosisa can occur anywhere, but cases more commonly happen in developing countries, according to the CDC. That’s because in many of those countries, pigs roam freely and can easily eat human faeces that may contain the tapeworm eggs.

According to Dev, patients with cysticercosisa can survive, as they usually don’t develop as many cysts as the patient in this case. Seizures are common in patients, but most people don’t show symptoms.

If you think you might have cysticercosisa, the CDC recommends seeing your healthcare provider immediately to determine whether further tests or treatments are needed.

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