Friday, November 6, 2015

There's a worm in my brain

A rare species of tapeworm has been detected living inside a 50 year old man’s brain, for four years. This man lives in England, is of Chinese decent and he visits his homeland regularly. The patient was administered to the hospital after complaining of headaches, memory loss, seizures and peculiar smell. Although the man appeared normal and tested negative for multiple disease testing, MRI scans were conducted. After administering several MRI scans over the course of four years, the doctors concluded there was a 5cm lesion traveling across his brain. The patient’s doctors then acted and took a biopsy of the man’s left thalamus. Their discovery was of a 1cm long larval worm that was ribbon shaped.
            Samples of the tapeworm were sent over to researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. At the institute researchers, like Dr. Hayley Bennett, took a closer look at this worm’s gene sequence. The researchers looked at the DNA and concluded the tapeworm was, Spirometraerinaceieuropaei. This tapeworm is very rare and typically found in China, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand. The doctors have concluded that the patient had contracted this tapeworm over one of his visits home. The infection was most likely caused by the ingestion of undercooked snake or frog, or drinking contaminated water.
The DNA strand is cut up into manageable pieces and observed through 100 letters at a time (ATCG). This linear jigsaw puzzle is an entire genome of 1.26 billion base pair long. By the investigation of the genome sequence it is beneficial in the detection of this organisms genetic make up. This data collection of genomic sequence allows for the investigation into other flatworms and their genetic family expansion. This conclusion leads to identifying genes or resistance to certain treatments and allows for the targeting of potential drugs.   
            Little is known about the genetic sequence of this tapeworm and how destructive it is to a number of hosts. I think this article was extremely interesting in imagining the tiny size of this tapeworm and the enormity of its genetic sequence. This research of genomes in tapeworms and the data collected was used to predict whether certain drugs could be used in certain rare infections. With the specificity of genome parts, researchers were able to conclude tapeworm had genes that provided resistance to drugs.  This detection could potentially save someone’s life


  1. This was definitely an interesting article. I wonder if any other cases like this have been reported in the US, and or China. It is amazing how large the genome of this 1cm organism.

  2. Wow it's amazing that man is still alive. I wonder how this worm is transmitted. Or if they occur in other countries as well.

  3. I am very surprised that the worm was living inside this man for four years. The worm is found in China so I wonder if more men in China got infected by this worm because the man is of Chinese descent. My guess is he probably got infected in China. This was very interesting!

  4. It is remarkable how the worm was not found for four years as well as how researchers were able to sequence the worm's genome to determine what the species was. Genome sequencing can reveal essential info in cases like this, which is very reliable. Genetic screening and sequencing has come a long way. Interesting read!