A woman in France had been suffering from disturbing symptoms for several weeks and she'd finally had enough. She went to see a doctor to try to find out the cause, but no one could have prepared her for the horrifying discovery doctor's made.
CNN reported, “The woman who came into the emergency room in Dijon, France, said she had been having difficulty riding her horse for three months. Her symptoms had only gotten worse, from weakness to falls to feeling electric shocks in both legs.”
As hopeful as she was when she entered the hospital, nothing could have prepared her for the stunning diagnosis she received. And even though they had a diagnosis, everyone, including the doctors, remained baffled about how she managed to contract the condition.
“The woman learned her three-month ordeal of worsening muscle weakness and electrical zaps in both legs was ultimately caused by worms that had lodged themselves inside her spine.
“The woman had the lesion—and the 9th thoracic vertebra where it was found—surgically removed, with the hole left behind in the spine repaired via an implant. And upon further examination, the lesion was found to contain larval cysts of the dog tapeworm.”
“Echinococcus worms mainly cause two diseases in humans: cystic echinococcosis and alveolar echinococcosis. The disease is zoonotic, meaning it is transferred to humans by animals, in this case, dogs, which in turn are infected by ungulates like cattle or sheep.”
According to the World Health Organization,“More than one million people worldwide are affected with echinococcosis at any given time.”
But the diagnosis was not the end of the puzzle. The 35-year-old patient, who is an avid horsewoman, had none of the risk factors for coming down with this particular parasite, so further digging was required.
“Humans can become hosts to the parasite when they ingest its eggs, which are present in the feces of an infected dog,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The woman did not report any contact with dogs, nor had she traveled to any region where the disease is endemic, such as Corsica.”
“Once swallowed, the eggs hatch and migrate through the circulatory system into various organs, starting with the liver. Approximately 65% of the lesions (which betray the worm's location) develop in the liver, 20% in the lungs and the rest elsewhere, including the brain, bone and occasionally the vertebrae.” Which is exactly what happened to the unnamed woman the story.
So how is the woman doing now? According to CNN, “After discovering the woman's cyst, doctors surgically removed the lesion and placed the patient on the antiparasitic medication albendazole. Nine months later, the woman had no residual symptoms or signs of recurrence.”
So good to know! Doctors are hoping that the thorough analysis of the woman’s baffling case might point to previously-undiscovered risk factors for the parasite. Then we will all be a little bit safer from falling victim to such disturbing invaders.