A woman’s loss of sensation in her legs turned out to have an absolutely horrifying cause.
A case report published in July 2018 in the New England Journal of Medicine detailed the unnamed 35-year-old French woman’s predicament. According to the report, the patient visited the emergency department of her local hospital. She presented symptoms of leg weakness, a sensation of electric shocks in both legs, and an inability to stay upright, frequently falling down for no apparent reason. The woman noted that her symptoms had been getting worse and worse over the course of the previous three months and made it difficult for her to ride her horse.
Doctors gave the woman a physical exam and found that she’d begun to lose sensation in both legs entirely and could hardly flex her feet. A lab test showed that her white-cell count was elevated, and a subsequent MRI identified the issue: a “lobulated lesion” in the middle of her spine.
Eventually the lesion (which was located in the ninth thoracic vertebra) was surgically removed, and doctors found that the lesion contained larvae of Echinococcus granulosus — a parasitic tapeworm that typically infects dogs and other pets and farm animals. Though it’s considered an animal parasite, humans can become infected as “incidental hosts.” According to Gizmodo, the adult form of the tapeworm breeds eggs that are then present in the poop of infected animals (like dogs). They’re then ingested by other animals (typically grazing animals like sheep or goats). Somewhere in this process, the unnamed woman managed to become infected with the cysts.
Thankfully for this patient, everything turned out just fine after her ordeal. After surgery and a course of antiparasitic medication, she was rid of the scary symptoms. A follow-up appointment nine months later found no continued signs of infestation.
Check out the video below to hear the panel of medical professionals on The Doctors further discuss this fascinating (and horrifying) case.
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