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Teen Dies After Tapeworm Eggs Invade Brain

photo of tapeworm in brain

March 29, 2019 -- An 18-year-old man in India died after apparently ingesting the eggs of a tapeworm that caused lesions across his brain.

The man’s parents brought him to an emergency room after he began having seizures and complained of pain in his groin for a week. Doctors say he had swelling above his right eye and tenderness in his right testicle.

An MRI showed lesions throughout the brain, brain stem, and cerebellum. There were also cysts found in his eye and testicle. Another test provided the answer: cysticercosis, which is an infection caused by parasitic larval cysts of the tapeworm Taenia solium. The larvae infect the brain, muscle, and other tissue and can cause seizures.

A person can develop cysticercosis if they swallow tapeworm eggs, which are found in the feces of a person who has an intestinal tapeworm. The highest rates of infection are in Latin America, Asia, and Africa -- generally in places with poor sanitation and free-ranging pigs.

The patient in India could not be given anti-parasitic drugs because doctors feared it would worsen the inflammation and swelling of his brain and cause him to go blind. Instead he was given anti-seizure drugs and steroids to fight the inflammation. He died 2 weeks later.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on March 29, 2019
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