Python parasite found in Australian’s brain in world-first discovery


Sydney, Aug 29, (dpa/GNA) – The world’s first case of a new parasitic infection in a human, has been discovered after a live 8-centimetre roundworm, was found in the brain of an Australian woman.

The Ophidascaris robertsi roundworm, was pulled still alive and wriggling, from the 64-year-old patient during brain surgery in June 2022, researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) and the Canberra Hospital revealed, in a study published on Tuesday.

The roundworms are common to carpet pythons, typically living in a python’s oesophagus and stomach.

“This is the first-ever human case of Ophidascaris to be described in the world,” Sanjaya Senanayake, ANU and Canberra Hospital infectious disease expert and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

“To our knowledge, this is also the first case to involve the brain of any mammalian species, human or otherwise.”

It is suspected larvae, or juveniles, were present in other organs in the woman’s body, including the lungs and liver.

The researchers said the woman, from Australia’s New South Wales, likely caught the roundworm after collecting a type of native grass, Warrigal greens, in which the python had shed the parasite via its faeces.

The woman suffered from abdominal pain and diarrhoea, a constant dry cough, fever and night sweats. She also experienced forgetfulness and depression, prompting an MRI scan which led to doctors finding the roundworm.

Senanayake said the case highlighted the danger of diseases and infections, passing from animals to humans, as habitats overlap more and more, and of the risks of foraging.

The woman was still being monitored by the team of infectious disease and brain specialists.

“It is never easy or desirable to be the first patient in the world for anything. I can’t state enough our admiration for this woman, who has shown patience and courage through this process,” Senanayake said.



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