1st new parasitic infection found in Australian woman's brain

A 64-year-old Australian woman had an 8-centimeter roundworm extracted from her brain in the world's first case of the new parasitic infection.

The Ophidascaris robertsi roundworm was pulled, alive and wriggling, from the patient after brain surgery at Canberra Hospital, according to an Aug. 28 Australian National University news release. Researchers suspect larvae were also present in other organs of the woman's body.

Ophidascaris robertsi roundworms are common to carpet pythons. Researchers said the woman likely caught the parasite while collecting a type of native grass beside a lake. She used the greens for cooking and was probably infected either during gathering or eating.

"This is the first-ever human case of Ophidascaris to be described in the world," Sanjaya Senanayake, MD, an infectious disease expert at Australian National University and Canberra Hospital, said in the news release. "To our knowledge, this is also the first case to involve the brain of any mammalian species, human or otherwise."

The patient first experienced symptoms in January 2021 and was admitted to the hospital after three weeks of abdominal pain and diarrhea. By 2022, she was experiencing forgetfulness and depression, which prompted an MRI scan and then brain surgery, where the parasite was found. The patient continues to be monitored by infectious disease and brain specialists.

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