Chilling clue that alerted woman to parasite living in her spine

A woman who felt ‘electric shocks’ in her legs was horrified to discover the gruesome cause of her symptoms.

After feeling weak and frequently falling over, the woman went to the hospital emergency department.

An X-ray revealed that the cause of her tingling legs was tape worm larvae, wiggling near her vertebrae.

Medics were initially baffled at the cause, as the woman had lived only in France and had no history of foreign travel. However, her love of animals was a key piece of information.

An MRI scan revealed live tape worm larvae near the woman’s vertebrae. Source: The New England Journal of Medicine

The woman was a keen horse rider, owned a pet cat and had contact with cattle, according to a case study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Laboratory tests revealed a white cell count through the roof, at 18,800 per cubic millimetre compared to a reference range of 4000 to 10,000.

After the initial X-ray, further tests confirmed she had a tapeworm, or Echinococcus granulosus, in her spinal region.

The journal noted Echinococcus was a “parasitic cestode that can infect dogs and other pets and farm animals, with humans as incidental hosts”.

The woman presented to the hospital complaining of ‘electric shocks’ in her legs. Source: The New England Journal of Medicine

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, infection with this type of tapeworm can cause “cystic lesions in the liver and lungs and also in the central nervous system and bones”.

After the shocking diagnosis, the woman had surgery and was treated with anti-parasitic medication. At a follow up appointment nine months later, she showed no residual symptoms and the tapeworm had not recurred.