Live wriggling worm pulled from patient’s brain as neurosurgeon ‘feels sick’

A neurosurgeon was left “feeling sick” after they plucked a live wriggling worm from a woman’s brain.

Surgeon Hari Priya Bandi was performing a biopsy through a hole in the 64-year-old woman's brain.

They launched the surgery after the elderly woman began experiencing unexplainable symptoms.

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The last thing the doctor expected to pull out an eight-centimetre parasite using forceps.

The shocking discovery happened at Canberra Hospital last year, the medical facility is a teaching hospital located in Garran, Canberra, Australia.

Speaking to local media, Bandi said: “I just thought: What is that? It doesn't make any sense. But it's alive and moving."

"It continued to move with vigour. We all felt a bit sick," Bandi added of her operating team.

The creature was the larva of an Australian native roundworm not previously known to be a human parasite, named Ophidascaris robertsi.

The worms are commonly found in carpet pythons.

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Bandi, along with infectious diseases physician Sanjaya Senanayak, joint authored an article about the terrifying medical case published in the latest edition of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Senanayake said he was on duty at the hospital in June last year when the worm was found.

They said: "I got a call saying: We've got a patient with an infection problem. We've just removed a live worm from this patient's brain."

The 64-year-old has reported symptoms including forgetfulness, and worsening depression.

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But one year earlier she had been admitted to a New South Wales hospital with symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhoea, a dry cough and night sweats.

Senanayake said the brain biopsy was expected to reveal a cancer or an abscess.

"This patient had been treated for what was a mystery illness that we thought ultimately was an immunological condition because we hadn't been able to find a parasite before and then out of nowhere, this big lump appeared in the frontal part of her brain," Senanayake said.

"Suddenly, with her (Bandi's) forceps, she's picking up this thing that's wriggling. She and everyone in that operating theatre were absolutely stunned," Senanayake added.

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The worms' eggs are commonly shed in snake droppings which are eaten by small mammals.

The life cycle continues as other snakes eat the mammals.

The woman lives near a carpet python habitat and forages for native vegetation called warrigal greens to cook.

While she had no direct contact with snakes, scientists hypothesize that she consumed the eggs from the vegetation or her contaminated hands.

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