Doctors in China were shocked when an MRI revealed over 700 tapeworms living inside a man’s brain and chest. The patient, identified as 43-year-old Zhu Zhongfa, began losing consciousness and suffering from seizures not long after eating a hot pot containing undercooked pork.
Zhongfa didn’t think much of it at first, but after several weeks he decided to go to a doctor. His local doctor was unable to determine why he was having seizures, and he was referred to the First Affiliated Hospital of College of Medicine at Zhejiang University.
Doctors at the hospital were able to diagnose the problem and began treating Zhongfa for the infection of worms.
“Different patients respond [differently] to the infection depending on where the parasites occupy,” Dr. Huang Jianrong, Zhongfa’s doctor at Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine, said. “In this case, he had seizures and lost consciousness, but others with cysts in their lungs might cough a lot.”
Doctors said that Zhongfa is responding well to the treatment, but cautioned that there could be long-term side effects.
Tapeworms eggs can be found in the feces of infected animals and can be spread to humans if infected meat is not washed or cooked correctly. The microscopic eggs can be killed by heating the meat to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit or by freezing it all the way through.
If the eggs are ingested, they will hatch and the tapeworms will migrate throughout the body, where they can grow to be up 26 feet long. The larvae develop protective cysts around themselves, which remain once the parasites outgrow them. Medication can be used to kill the worms, but there is nothing that can be done about the cysts, which can cause infections and permanent damage as they decay.
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