Stunned scientists described the first known case of a man infected with tumours by a common parasitic tapeworm, raising concern about more such infections that may go undetected.
“We were amazed when we found this new type of disease -tapeworms growing inside a person essentially getting cancer that spreads to the person, causing tumours,“ said Atis Muehlenbachs, staff pathologist in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Infectious Diseases Pathology Branch. “We think this type of event is rare. However, this tapeworm is found worldwide and millions of people globally suffer from conditions like HIV that weaken their immune system. So there may be more such unrecognized cases,“ said Muehlenbachs, lead author of the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The case involved a 41-yearold man in Colombia. He was HIV-positive and not been taking medications when in 2013, he went to his doctors with a cough, fever and complaints of weakness and weight loss. His doctors took biopsies from his lymph nodes and lung tumours, and appealed to the CDC for help in diagnosing some bizarre-looking lesions which looked like human cancer, but initial lab tests showed they were not human.
Puzzled, scientists kept searching for the cause of the man’s disease. “The growth pattern was decidedly cancer like, with too many cells crowded into small spaces and quickly multiplying,“ the CDC said in a statement. “But the cells were tiny -about 10 times smaller than a normal human cancer cell. The researchers also noticed cells fusing together, which is rare for human cells.“
After dozens of tests, they found DNA from Hymenolepis nana, the dwarf tapeworm, in the man’s tumour in mid-2013.The man died soon after.
The dwarf tapeworm is the most common tapeworm in humans, and infects up to 75 million people at any given time. People can get it by eating food that has mouse feces on it, or ingesting feces from an infected person. It often affects children, and many people show no symptoms.
Scientists Describe Case Of An HIV-Positive Patient Who Was Diagnosed With This Rare Condition
26-year-old is saved in the nick of time
A California man says he went to an emergency room with a terrible headache and nausea, slipped into a coma, and was told a tapeworm larva had been living in his brain when he woke up. Luis Ortiz, a 26-year-old student, said doctors told him he needed immediate surgery to remove it. “ I couldn’t believe something like that would happen to me. I didn’t know there was a parasite in my head trying to ruin my life,“ Ortiz said. The surgery and the aftermath have greatly impacted his life, Ortiz said. He had to drop out of school, move back home and find a temporary place for his dog. He can’t drive or work. “My memory is like a work in progress. It gets better from therapy,“ Ortiz said. His neurosurgeon, Dr Soren Singel, said Ortiz was lucky he arrived at the hospital when he did. The worm was forming in a cyst that was blocking the flow of water to chambers in his brain, “like a cork in a bottle,“ Singel said. Another 30 minutes of that blockage, and “he would have been dead, it was a close call“, Singel said. AP
Source: TOI’ 06 Nov’2015