Rachel Palma, 42, from New York, had been experiencing some odd symptoms like having difficulty remembering words and suddenly dropping items like her coffee mug. When she decided to seek medical help, she didn’t expect that she would be diagnosed with a parasitic disease.
Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture, and history, reported that the doctors saw a lesion that was very odd-looking in Palma’s brain. Based on her MRI scan and her symptoms, Dr. Jonathan Rasouli, a neurosurgery resident at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, said that "we were concerned...that that lesion could potentially be cancerous.” They even suspected that the woman had an aggressive type of cancer that could be life-threatening: a malignant brain tumor.
|Photo Credit: Dr. Mae Melvin on CDC (via Live Science)|
However, Palma was diagnosed with a parasitic disease called neurocysticercosis after the doctors found a huge tapeworm egg in her brain that looked like a rock or a quail egg. "It was such a relief to see that instead of having a malignant brain tumor she had a tapeworm,” Rasouli said. This condition occurs when a person ingests microscopic eggs from a pork tapeworm. This tapeworm is common in developing nations, including countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. How did Palma contract the parasite? No one knows.
|Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons|
According to the World Health Organization, this disease can be dangerous. When the eggs hatch, the larvae can travel throughout the body, including the brain, muscles, skin, and eyes. These parasites will then form cysts. Rasouli added that the larvae have a particular affinity for the brain because of its blood supply. Fortunately, Palma didn't need any more treatment for the condition once the parasitic cyst was removed.
Palma decided not to think about how the parasite managed to enter her brain. "I stopped asking questions and started celebrating and making the most out of life," she said.