The parasite was discovered by specialists at the leading hospital in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, after local doctors in his Jian home could find no medical cause for the 26-year-old man’s recent onset of epilepsy.
The man, identified only by his surname Liu, was operated on at the First Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University on Monday.
Dr Wang Chunliang, who led Liu’s treatment, said blood tests had revealed the presence of Spirometra mansoni, a kind of tapeworm, in his brain.
“The worm was still alive when we took it out,” said Wang. “It was springy, white all over, and could swim.”
According to a report in the Jiangnan City Daily, the creature was believed to have found its way into Liu’s brain from contaminated or undercooked food that he had eaten
Liu’s love of grilled food, which he ate regularly, was the likely cause of the problem. He said he had been in general good health until recent months, when he had started suffering a series of epileptic fits.
Guo Hui, president of Shanghai Neuromedical Centre, told South China Morning Postsuch cases were often found in areas where water supply was unhealthy or people were used to eating uncooked or half-cooked meat and seafood.
When a worm or its egg is not killed by proper cooking, it can travel through the blood to the brain or other organs, like the lungs.
“Because the brain receives nearly a quarter of the human body’s blood supply, the possibility of a worm reaching the brain and staying there is relatively higher than for other organs,” Guo said.
Once there, the worm can reproduce and damage brain function, causing symptoms such as headache, nausea, bleeding of the blood vessels, and epilepsy, he said.
Similar cases have been reported in mainland newspapers in recent years.
Doctors in a Guangdong hospital last year pulled a 25cm worm from a 12-year-old girl, after she suddenly passed out and remained unconscious for half an hour. It was suspected to have lived in her body for at least six years.
In May, a 55-year-old man from Jiangxi’s Jishui county had a 30cm worm removed from his brain after suffering numbness in his face and limbs for six months.
In both cases, the patients were in the habit of drinking untreated water.