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The Brain Hidden Epidemic: 
Tapeworms Living Inside People's Brains


PR activist

Theodore Nash sees only a few dozen patients a year in his clinic at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. That’s pretty small as medical practices go, but what his patients lack in number they make up for in the intensity of their symptoms. Some fall into comas. Some are paralyzed down one side of their body. Others can’t walk a straight line. Still others come to Nash partially blind, or with so much fluid in their brain that they need shunts implanted to relieve the pressure. Some lose the ability to speak; many fall into violent seizures.

Underneath this panoply of symptoms is the same cause, captured in the MRI scans that Nash takes of his patients’ brains. Each brain contains one or more whitish blobs. You might guess that these are tumors. But Nash knows the blobs are not made of the patient’s own cells. They are tapeworms. Aliens.

A blob in the brain is not the image most people have when someone mentions tapeworms. These parasitic worms are best known in their adult stage, when they live in people’s intestines and their ribbon-shaped bodies can grow as long as 21 feet. But that’s just one stage in the animal’s life cycle. Before they become adults, tapeworms spend time as larvae in large cysts. And those cysts can end up in people’s brains, causing a disease known as neurocysticercosis.



PR activist
I wonder if neurocysticercosis could be a cause of dysautonomia for some of us:

Spinal Cord. 1999 Feb;37(2):142-6.

Parenchymatous cerebral neurocysticercosis in a quadriplegic patient.

Al-Khodairy AT, Annoni JM, Uebelhart D.
University Hospital of Geneva, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Switzerland.

To present and discuss a case of cerebral neurocysticercosis in a quadriplegic patient.

Case report of a case of neurocysticercosis in a high level spinal cord injury (SCI) patient who developed episodes of autonomic dysreflexia and orthostatic hypotension associated with transient neurologic deficits and seizures.

Spinal Cord Unit of the University Hospital of Geneva, Switzerland.

Single patient case report.

Clinical and radiological magnetic resonance imaging follow-up of the patient between July 1995 and October 1997.

Treatment of cysticercosis with praziquantel relieved the patient from autonomic dysreflexia, symptomatic orthostatic hypotension, transitory neurological deficits and seizures.

Diagnosis of neurocysticercosis in a quadriplegic patient might be difficult because of frequent overlaps with some usual symptoms occurring in high level SCI, mostly autonomic dysreflexia and orthostatic hypotension. Neurocysticercosis should be kept in mind when a SCI patient living in, or coming from endemic zones presents with new neurological abnormalities and seizures. Magnetic resonance imaging appears to be more sensitive than computerised tomography to confirm the diagnosis of active cysticercosis. Treatment with praziquantel associated with cimetidine to increase the drug bioavailability and prednisone to reduce the inflammatory reaction gives good results.