A woman in France who complained of tingling feeling and electric shock-like pain in her legs turned out to have a parasite in her spine.
Tapeworm Larvae In The Spine
According to a case report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the 35-year old woman struggled to ride her horse for three months. When she eventually went to the emergency room at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Dijon, she reported that her legs feel weak and that she keeps falling and experiences electric shock-like pain in her legs.
Medics who scanned her spine discovered that she has tapeworm larvae wriggling around her vertebrae.
The woman has echinococcus granulosus, a parasite commonly found in animals such as dogs, sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs. The woman happens to have a pet cat that had been in contact with cattle.
The parasite can grow up to 7 mm long and trigger slow-growing cysts in the central nervous system, bones, and organs of the body. The hydatid cysts that develop as a result of infection often occurs in the liver and lungs.
Infection does not initially cause symptoms and the incubation period can last many years until the cysts grow to an extent they start to trigger clinical signs.
Nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting often happen when the hydatid cysts occur in the liver. Clinical signs of hydatids in the lung include chest pain, chronic cough and shortness of breath. The other symptoms depend on the location of the cysts and the pressure these exert on the surrounding tissues.
Infection may also result in weight loss, anorexia, and weakness.
Tapeworm eggs commonly enter the human host from animals through food especially when they eat raw or undercooked meat. In the case of Echinococcus granulosus, transmission to humans often occurs by accidental consumption of food, water or soil contaminated by the fecal matter of an infected dog.
"The disease is most commonly found in people involved in raising sheep, as a result of the sheep's role as an intermediate host of the parasite and the presence of working dogs that are allowed to eat the offal of infected sheep," the CDC said.
The woman had to undergo surgery to remove the parasite. She was also treated with the antiparasitic medication albendazole.
"At follow-up 9 months after presentation, the patient had no residual symptoms or sign of recurrence," Marine Jacquier and Lionel Piroth, from the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Dijon wrote in the case report.