Unbelievable Cause of Man's 4-Year Headache Will Make You Queasy

man with pounding headacheWe all know that hard-to-pinpoint health woes often lead to testing galore. But for a 50-year-old man who saw his doctor back in 2008 with headaches, memory loss, and seizures, just to name a few of his ailments, testing lasted four years. During that time, he was checked for HIV, Lyme disease, and syphilis. But it turned out, the culprit was actually a rare, four-inch parasitic tapeworm. Yes, really.


When an MRI scan was taken, doctors saw a cluster of what appeared to be lesions in his brain, which they were shocked appeared to keep moving. Fast-forward to 2012, when geneticists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge were amazed to find during a biopsy that in the man's brain tissue, there were the remains of a four-inch, "ribbon-shaped larval worm."

Once he had been diagnosed, the man, who was of Chinese descent but lived in the UK, was treated easily with drugs to kill the worm and has now completely recovered. Thank goodness!

The tapeworm, referred to as Spirometra erinaceieuropaei, has been reported only 300 times worldwide since 1953 and has never been seen before in the UK.

More from The Stir: Mom Feeds Daughter Tapeworms So She’ll Lose Weight (VIDEO)

Usually, the worm is found in amphibians and crustaceans in China, and later in its life cycle, it can infect the guts of cats and dogs. And although the worm is usually found in China, only 1,000 cases have been reported in humans since 1882.

Researchers believe the man picked up the parasite while on a visit to China, where he visited regularly. While experts can't say for sure exactly how it occurred, it may have happened as a result of consuming infected meat or water, and the worm then burrowed through his body to his brain.

Guess we can rest assured that this is an incredibly rare circumstance, but it's obviously completely horrific! Still, believe it or not, there's a positive upshot to come of the ordeal: Scientists were able to sequence the parasite's genome, which will make it easier for them to identify and treat it in the future. Well, cheers to that!

When's the last time symptoms you were experiencing turned out to be something absolutely unexpected?


Image via iStock.com/michaelmjc

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