A parasitic disease usually only found in developing countries has been found in a Melbourne woman who has never been outside of the country.
The 25-year-old woman was diagnosed with neurocysticercosis, a disease that causes symptoms such as seizures, headaches, blindness and dementia.
The woman had experienced regular headaches two or three times a month with “visual symptoms” since 18 years of age, according to a case report published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
She was found to have a lesion on her brain after seeking medical treatment for a mild to moderate headache that lasted for six to seven days, as well as moments where her vision was blurred.
Once it was removed doctors were surprised to find it was not human tissue, but larvae from the parasite.
DNA testing revealed the infection was linked to a strain common in Asia, however this is the first recorded case of neurocysticercosis in Australia.
The disease is caused by a parasitic tapeworm found only in pigs and humans, and is transmitted when people eat eggs from the tapeworm due to poor hygiene.
It is rarely found outside of affluent regions including North America, Central Europe, Japan and Australasia.
The woman lived with her parents and siblings in an outer metropolitan suburb and worked as a barista.
None of the woman’s family had close contact with anyone who had travelled to a region where the tapeworm was common.
While the source of infection is unclear, the report suggests the woman’s work as a barista may have put her in contact with people who travelled widely.
“However, it is not surprising that with the high frequency and ease of travel between endemic and non-endemic regions, sporadic infection can occur in people, who would otherwise be considered at no or very low risk of infection with (the tapeworm) T solium,” the report said.
The report cautions cases in Australia could increase due to increasing international travel.
“Clinicians need to be mindful that with the ease and frequency of world travel, diseases such as NCC that are highly endemic in many parts of the world pose a risk to inhabitants of countries with low endemicity,” it said.
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