Woman shocked after MRI scan reveals that she has a dog tapeworm lodged in her spine

Woman shocked after MRI scan reveals that she has a dog tapeworm lodged in her spine

FDR once said, "The only thing you have to fear is fear itself." Well, I guess he never heard of tapeworms, because tapeworms are fricken terrifying. These long, ribbon-like parasites attach themselves to the intestines of animals and humans, and steal their food. Since they cannot be destroyed by our immune system, they can survive for up to 30 years in a host. (And no, getting a tapeworm is not a good way to lose weight, so don't even try it!)

In most cases, tapeworms aren't fatal. However, they can cause health problems, since they're robbing you of nutrients. Also, the concept is just gross - like you've been invaded by a little monster. Humans can become infected by tapeworms drinking contaminated water and eating contaminated food. They usually camp in the intestines, but cysts can also settle in the brain, eye, liver and wherever else gives you nightmares.

This week the New England Journal of Medicine published a report of a 35-year-old French woman who got a very nasty scare. She checked herself into the hospital, telling doctors she repeatedly fell down, and felt "electric shocks in both legs." An avid horse rider, she found it difficult to ride for three months. The symptoms seemed to be getting progressively worse.

MRI of tapeworm lodged in woman's spine Credit: New England Journal of Medicine

An MRI of the woman's spine revealed a shocking discovery: A tapeworm commonly found in dogs was lodged in her spinal cord. The woman was shocked, because she claims she only came into contact with her cat, horses and cattle. Doctors were unable to explain how she picked up the parasite, but they verified she had a lesion on one of her vertebrae with an "epidural component."

Fortunately, they successfully removed the creature through surgery. Pathological testing identified the parasite as echinococcus granulosus. The authors state that "infection can cause cystic lesions in the liver and lungs and also in the central nervous system and bones. "After being treated with antiparasitic medication, the woman made a full recovery. Once again, she can walk and ride her horse without difficulty.

MRI of tapeworm lodged in woman's spine Credit: New England Journal of Medicine

It's a good thing the woman didn't wait any longer to see a doctor. Nobody likes going to the hospital, but it's important to catch health problems as soon as possible so they can be treated. The symptoms of tapeworms vary, but may include abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, general weakness, inflammation of the intestine, diarrhea, weight loss, and eggs, larvae, or segments from the tapeworm in stools.

If you're invaded by a Pepto-pink freeloader, the most common treatment is oral medication. The drugs destroy the tapeworm and it will pass out in your stool. You'll probably be just as thrilled as those parents who evicted their 30-year-old slacker son.

All things considered, there are more dangerous things than tapeworms. But I don't care, they're super gross. To paraphrase FDR, "The only thing you have to fear is dog tapeworms in your spine."