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A woman in Australia found that her headache was caused by tapeworm larvae in the brain

The pains were caused by tapeworm larvae that had taken up space in his brain, according to a new study on his case published Sept. 21 in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The woman, who has never traveled overseas, is Australia’s first native case of the disease, the study says. Previous Australian cases of this infection were from immigrants or returning residents who have traveled to regions where the disease is endemic, such as Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For the past seven years, the woman has complained of headaches that would occur two or three times a month and has gone away on prescribed migraine medications. However, his last headache lasted more than a week and presented with more severe visual symptoms, including blurring of his central vision.

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An MRI of his brain led doctors to believe that a tumor could be the cause of his pain, but after they operated on and removed the lesion, they found that it was actually a cyst filled with tapeworm larvae. After removal, he required no further treatment.

This condition is known as neurocysticercosis, which can cause neurological symptoms when larval cysts develop in the brain. People who contract the parasitic infection do so by swallowing eggs found in the stool of a person who has an intestinal tapeworm, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Neurocysticercosis is deadly and a leading cause of adult-onset epilepsy worldwide, the CDC said.

Tapeworms typically settle in the human intestine, an infection known as taeniasis, and some can pass on their own without medication. The parasite is commonly transmitted when people consume undercooked pork – pigs are often intermediate hosts of the tapeworm – or come into contact with food, water, and soil contaminated with tapeworm eggs.

The woman, who worked as a bartender, was considered to be at no or very low risk of tapeworm larvae infection, but it is believed that she somehow accidentally ingested tapeworm eggs released by a transporter.

A Texas man had a similar experience, suffering from severe headaches for more than a decade that turned out to be caused by tapeworm larvae lodged in the fourth ventricle of his brain.

The best line of defense against such an infection is to cook meat at safe temperatures, wash your hands with soap before eating, and only eat food that you can make sure has been cooked in hygienic conditions.

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