The 18-year-old originally went to the hospital because he was experiencing seizures

By Helen Murphy
March 29, 2019 04:41 PM
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Credit: Nishanth Dev, M.D., S. Zafar Abbas, M.D./ ESIC Medical College and Hospital, Faridabad, India

An 18-year-old who went to the emergency room complaining of seizures found out that he had tapeworm eggs in his brain and died two weeks later, according to a case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday.

The unnamed patient had come to the emergency room after experiencing seizures and pain in his right groin area, according to the study by Dr. Nishanth Dev and Dr. S. Zafar Abbas from the ESIC Medical College and Hospital in Faridabad, India. During an initial examination, the study reported, the patient seem confused and also had swelling over his right eye.

MRI and ultrasound tests then found cysts throughout his cerebral cortex, brain stem, cerebellum, eye and right testicle.

The teenager was diagnosed with neurocysticercosis, which the World Health Organization defines as a “parasitic infection of the central nervous system” that is caused by a pork tapeworm. According to the WHO, the patient may have been infected after eating undercooked food — especially pork — or drinking water that had been contaminated with tapeworm eggs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, neurocysticercosis is the most severe form of cysticercosis because the larvae from the tapeworm eggs travel to the brain instead of other parts of the body.

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Because of the large number of cysts, and because at least one was on his eye, the doctors decided against giving the patient antiparasitic medicine.

Instead, they gave him dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medication, and an anti-seizure medicine. Despite the doctors’ attempts, the patient died two weeks after he was first admitted into the hospital.

There are about 1,000 new hospitalizations for neurocysticercosis each year in the United States, according to the CDC, which also notes that the disease is preventable and that the average person can help protect themselves by practicing good hand washing strategies.