Woman complains of ‘electric shocks’ in legs, doctors find tapeworm larvae wriggling in spine
When a 35-year-old woman arrived at a hospital in France, she told doctors she had a tingling feeling in her legs, that felt like an electric shock.
She also complained about weakness in her legs and falling over numerous times.
It turns out that the woman’s symptoms had a surprising cause — tapeworm larvae lurking in her spine.
That’s according to a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine, which published the case on July 11.
The report said the woman lived in France but had not been out of the country in the time before reporting her symptoms. She did ride horses and have contact with cattle and she told doctors at the hospital that she was having trouble riding her horses because of her symptoms.
An MRI revealed a lesion on her spine, in the middle of the back, according to the report. She then needed surgery to remove it, and that’s when tests showed it was caused by an infection called Echinococcus granulosus. This is a parasitic worm that is usually found in dogs and farm animals. Humans are usually the “incidental hosts,” the report said.
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This tapeworm can cause a disease called cystic echinococcosis in which the larvae form cysts that grow slowly in a person’s body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The infection can cause cystic lesions in the liver and lungs and also in the central nervous system and bones, the report stated.
“We cannot be sure about how our patient was infected. This disease is very rare in France,” Dr. Lionel Piroth an infectious-disease specialist at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Dijon, who treated the woman, told NBC News.
The worm is found mainly in sheep and can be passed along through dogs, but cattle and cats also can carry and spread it. The woman had a pet cat and had contact with cattle.
Piroth told NBC News that contaminated raw vegetables could have also transmitted the worm.
The woman needed surgery, as well as antiparasitic medicine. And after nine months, she had “no residual symptoms” or “signs of recurrence,” the report said.
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