Published 2018-06-07
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Scientists discovered worms that invade your brain by eating a very common food...

We know that the foods that are sold in the supermarket are often modified by processes that change their characteristics in part, at least in relation to meat. Surely they have learned that chicken meat sold to the weight is filled with at least 25% of water inside, so, ultimately, we end up paying a higher price basically for the water it contains. Therefore, when cooking chicken, we can appreciate a large amount of water released…

And now, scientists have discovered something quite serious. Specifically, they found worms that are present in a type of meat that you probably eat often, and that is very dangerous. Once you consume them, they can move through your bodies, such as your eyes, tissues, and brain. They have left doctors perplexed as they migrate and settle to feed on the body they are invading; A classic parasite that can enter your head.

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"It had moved from one side of the brain to the other... and very few things move in the brain," Dr. Effrosyni Gkrania-Klotsas said about a British man who turned out to have a solitary moving inside his brain in 2013. This form of Parasite had never been seen before in this area. The patient had recently visited China, which along with South Korea, Japan, and Thailand, has regular incidences of the parasite, known as Spirometra erinaceieuropaei.

When years before the man experienced symptoms like acute headaches, the team of doctors at the Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge had treated him like tuberculosis. But then he came back. "When he came back, he had new symptoms," said the doctor. The worm is pushing a part of your brain, causing seizures and weakness in your legs. The condition associated with his infection was, in fact, Sparganosis.

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There is no known drug to effectively treat the infection, which means that when diagnosed, doctors have to be quick to remove the worm surgically. There are many forms of solitaire, three of which can easily infect the brain. From a public health perspective, there is one in particular with which one must be careful. "It's mainly the pork tapeworm, which is the one that most affects the brain," said Helena Helmby of the London School of Hygiene.

The species of pig, known as Taenia Solium, can infect humans in two ways. The first is to eat uncooked pork from infected animals, which leads to a taeniasis, an adult worm that resides in the intestine. The second, in the form of larva, by contact with the feces of a human infected pig, which can infect many tissues of the body. If the worm enters the nervous system, including the brain, it can result in a condition known as neurocysticercosis.

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An infection of this type can often cause epilepsy once inside the brain. Almost one-third of cases of epilepsy in countries where the disease is native are people who have previously had neurocysticercosis, according to WHO. The infection arises from poor sanitation and hygiene. "In fact, anyone can get infected," said Helmby, since poor hygiene, such as not washing one's hands, could result in eating the eggs of an adult worm that lives in your intestine. "Autoinfection is very common."

According to the World Health Organization, the global distribution of pork tapeworm is widespread, with a high risk especially in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. As a result of its higher prevalence and due to the increase in international travel, Gkrania-Klotsas has three patients under its care in Cambridge who has previously experienced neurocysticercosis. Infections with pig tapeworms are common but treatable with anthelmintic drugs focused on the worm.

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Both Helmby and Klotsas are concerned about the risks arising from increased international travel and global food trade. "The import and export of food are increasing and the risks of consuming infected products are increasing," said Helmby, who thinks that more vigilance is needed in food inspection. She predicts that there will be more cases in places where these infections have been previously eliminated.

"I'm sure there will be more of this in the future," said Klotsas, who has seen infected patients without having traveled abroad. "People are getting infections without going anywhere." However, travelers also need more awareness when visiting regions where infections are common. But if the health teams are ready for the consequences, this increase could be controlled. "We have to be able to treat all these infections," said Helmby. "This is the challenge of this moment." A challenge in which researchers in genetics can be invaluable.

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