Woman Narrowly Escapes Becoming Quadriplegic As A Tapeworm Is Removed From Her Spine

A 35-year-old woman who was at risk of becoming quadriplegic had a tapeworm removed from a vertebra.

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‘Electric shocks’

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A surprising and rare case is how one could describe the operation that took place in Dijon in the Côte-d’Or region in France, which was reported in the prestigious The New England Journal of Medicine. A 35-year-old woman was admitted to the A&E during the autumn, complaining of intense pain in her back, explains the Head of the Infectious Diseases Department at the University Hospital of Dijon. The young woman described feelings of ‘electric shocks’ in her legs and explained that she had difficulty riding a horse for about 3 months.

Tests reveal… a tapeworm

Extensive examinations revealed that a tapeworm had actually lodged in her 9th vertebra and had compressed her spinal cord. But how can a tapeworm get into the spinal cord? There are two possibilities:

- By ingesting food that may have been exposed to faeces

- By accidentally ingesting parasite eggs while in contact with animals

The eggs then hatch into a tapeworm, which in the case of this young woman then moved into the blood vessels and finally ended up in her vertebra.

‘The parasite went the wrong way; it began to touch the spinal cord, which was why she was in pain, and if nothing had been done she would have likely become a tetraplegic,’ confirms the head of the Department of Infectiology at the University Hospital of Dijon to The New England Journal of Medicine. The patient was operated on to remove the worm and had no signs of a sequela nine months following the operation.

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