WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

Haven’t you ever feared the possibility of contracting a brain parasite and facing a slow, terrible death? Me too! I promise to make this not as disgusting as it could be, so read on my paranoid friends.


(from cliche on Flickr)

Let’s start with the one you’re most likely to already have. Toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis is a parasite carried by your fuzzy kitten friends and transmitted to humans via their teeny adowable cat turds which ends up being pretty easy since you’re scooping their poop so often. How do cats get it? Likely, through murdering and eating a rodent. Yya know, your cat’s ideal Friday night.

The actual amount of people who already have Toxoplasmosis is debated, but seems to be around 11-22% in the US (and possibly a whopping 75% in El Salvador). Thankfully, it’s not normally fatal unless the host has AIDS, is pregnant, or otherwise has an compromised immune system.

Then, how would you know you had it? Upon infection, it’s possible you’ll have flu-like symptoms for the better part of a month and enlarged lymph nodes for a couple more months- then it’s likely to go into a latent phase with no symptoms. What will stick with you is a fairly undetectable increased risk-taking personality (for example, you’ll be more likely to be in a car accident!) and you’re more prone to be considered OCD or diagnosed with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s among other mood disorders.


(from digitalart on Flickr)

Moving right along, here’s one that’s about 99% assured to kill you if you’re infected: Naegleria fowleri. These guys (aka the “brain-eating amoeba”) live in fresh water and poorly-kept chlorinated pools. If you use a neti pot, boiling drinking water (or just using distilled) is no joke, because the closer you get one of these guys to your brain, the more likely an infection can be and the nose is their primary gateway.

How likely are you to contract these lil guys? Not very- there have only been 31 cases between 2003-2012 in the US, three of them were from nasal irrigation- AS. I. SAID. But most of the others happen in the southern, costal states.

What will happen if you become infected? It’ll be blessedly quick. Within five days you’ll show symptoms, and within five more, you’ll be dead. Since the amoebas are actively dining on your brain, you’ll get headaches, fever and nausea at first, then it’ll progress to hallucinations, seizures and general confusion/lack of awareness.


(from sunshinecoast_bc on Flickr)

I’ll save you a heart attack: you probably won’t find Taenia solium (aka the pork tapeworm) in bacon. In fact, you don’t even need to eat pork at all to contract this one.

When pigs eat a tapeworm egg, it grows in their stomach and then launches larval cysts through the stomach lining that hooks into the pig’s muscle. Humans get the intestinal version from eating undercooked pork (and thus, the larval cysts), but the brain parasite version comes from inhaling the tapeworm eggs from a human carrier which is an interruption in the whole process. The tapeworm eggs think they’re in a pig stomach and send larval cysts through the lining which ends up in our bloodstream, eventually going up into the brain. When it gets up there, the host will develop headaches and seizures, but it’s not necessarily going to kill you, which is actually fairly kind!

How likely are you to get a pork tapeworm? The intestinal version: pretty easily, cook that meat, fools. The brain parasite is a lot less prevalent in the US, but that’s thanks to the in large part to the CDC. Thanks, CDC!


(from gregoryrallen on Flickr)

Lest dog owners feel smug, there is indeed a parasite found primarily in dogs’ fur. It’s called Toxocara canis, otherwise known as dog roundworm, and yes- it sure does sound like something your disgusting best friend had when you first got him.

Transmission to humans is pretty easy, the eggs end up within a dog’s fur, and simply petting the dog will get all those eggs rustin'. There are two basic infections in humans- inhaling the egg, which will end up hatching and migrating to your liver or brain causing pneumonia-like symptoms, fever, coughing, etc. The other way is when the egg goes straight into your EYE, DEAR GOD. It hatches and latches onto the back of your eye causing a litany of disgusting issues ending most probably in vision loss, let’s never speak again of this.

How likely are you to get it? It’s nearly impossible to actually catch so long as you’re keeping yourself and your dogs clean and not, like, rubbing your face in every homeless, mangey dog, which is a solid tip regardless.

So, do you feel more informed now? Ever had a parasite yourself? Or just fear that you have one now? Tell me all the disgusting details in the comments!

CowboyDann


quality posts: 716 Private Messages CowboyDann

This has been an awful irrational fear of mine, reading this article scared me a little bit but makes me feel a little less irrationally scared.
Leave it to woot to make me feel better <3

jenschiefs


quality posts: 0 Private Messages jenschiefs

I have known 3 people to get the brain worm from a restaurant in New Delhi. It is sufficiently rare that the CDC sent a team out to investigate the source.

Unfortunately, even with modern medicine, it's a bad time.

Nothing happens while the worm is alive and waiting to hit the intestines, but when he dies, the white blood cells realize they've been hornswaggled and go into kill mode--in the brain, which causes seizures.

The damage may heal after the WBC's finish the cleanup, but the patient will require anti-seizure medicine for some or all of the rest of their life (medicine which unfortunately causes liver damage, yay!).

marceepauff


quality posts: 15 Private Messages marceepauff

I remember being told that if you had a tapeworm, you were supposed to leave raw meat on your nightstand and sleep naked...and, in the middle of the night, the tapeworm will smell the raw meat and exit your butt and end up on your plate by morning.

Oh parasite goddess, do tell if this has any truth to it...

stormbourne


quality posts: 1 Private Messages stormbourne

I bought a Neti pot a while ago but ever since the case of the Naegleria fowleri after improper use of one I am scared to use it. I also don't plan on swimming in any natural swimming holes for the rest of my life.. unfounded phobia?

agingdragqueen


quality posts: 126 Private Messages agingdragqueen

Staff

marceepauff wrote:I remember being told that if you had a tapeworm, you were supposed to leave raw meat on your nightstand and sleep naked...and, in the middle of the night, the tapeworm will smell the raw meat and exit your butt and end up on your plate by morning.

Oh parasite goddess, do tell if this has any truth to it...



There is legitimately no truth to that, but I love it. That's a great Old Wives Tale.


agingdragqueen


quality posts: 126 Private Messages agingdragqueen

Staff

stormbourne wrote:I bought a Neti pot a while ago but ever since the case of the Naegleria fowleri after improper use of one I am scared to use it. I also don't plan on swimming in any natural swimming holes for the rest of my life.. unfounded phobia?



Very definitely unfounded (considering that there are an average of 3-4 cases a year) BUT I understand your concern, and it's much better to be cautious! Neti-ing is so beneficial for allergies and general stuffiness (especially this time of year) a good compromise is to just warm up some distilled water if you don't have time to boil water for the ~three minutes they recommend.


GeekyRebel


quality posts: 0 Private Messages GeekyRebel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiqTTozWNhA

Have you the brain worms!

Freelance Artist
http://rsteelearts.com/

thumperchick


quality posts: 241 Private Messages thumperchick

Thanks. I am now certain there is a doggy given ringworm in my eye, and that's why I have astigmatism.

(A few of you will laugh heartily that instead of eye, I originally typed "aya." I have a ringworm in my aya.)

jawsuser


quality posts: 4 Private Messages jawsuser

I live in the Panhandle of Florida. We have an active problem with parasites in fresh water swimming holes and recently had a five year old girl die from them. It is rare, but can definitely happen.

CandaceO


quality posts: 1 Private Messages CandaceO
thumperchick wrote:(A few of you will laugh heartily that instead of eye, I originally typed "aya." I have a ringworm in my aya.)



Better than in your yaya.

MandaX


quality posts: 0 Private Messages MandaX
jenschiefs wrote:I have known 3 people to get the brain worm from a restaurant in New Delhi. It is sufficiently rare that the CDC sent a team out to investigate the source.

Unfortunately, even with modern medicine, it's a bad time.

Nothing happens while the worm is alive and waiting to hit the intestines, but when he dies, the white blood cells realize they've been hornswaggled and go into kill mode--in the brain, which causes seizures.

The damage may heal after the WBC's finish the cleanup, but the patient will require anti-seizure medicine for some or all of the rest of their life (medicine which unfortunately causes liver damage, yay!).



I myself have had the brainworm! The medical term for it is cysticercosis. The prognosis depends heavily on how severe and chronic one's exposure is. The one seizure I had from it was preceded by terrible hives all over my legs and somewhat on my arms. This is because the pork tapeworm larvae can also migrate into other tissues outside of the stomach and cause allergic reactions. Thankfully I only had one of what they call ring-enhancing lesions in my brain, which precipitated the seizure. I was in the hospital for five days -- longer than when my dad had a quadruple bypass -- where I underwent ALL OF THE TESTS. Seriously, when a white girl in Northern Virginia gets a parasitic disease thought to be confined to developing countries, the docs get a little jumpy. I was treated with $800 horse pills (literally, drugs developed to treat horse parasites, and those are 1998 dollars, by the way) and three months' worth of anti-seizure meds, after which I was given a clean bill of health and have not had another seizure since the first and only one. Thank goodness I, an otherwise healthy 23-year-old at the time, had insurance, because the cost of all the treatment added up to about $15,000.

Now like I said, this good outcome was probably because my exposure was minimal and limited. People who are chronically exposed to the parasite will have much worse outcomes.

agingdragqueen


quality posts: 126 Private Messages agingdragqueen

Staff

MandaX wrote:I myself have had the brainworm! The medical term for it is cysticercosis. The prognosis depends heavily on how severe and chronic one's exposure is. The one seizure I had from it was preceded by terrible hives all over my legs and somewhat on my arms. This is because the pork tapeworm larvae can also migrate into other tissues outside of the stomach and cause allergic reactions. Thankfully I only had one of what they call ring-enhancing lesions in my brain, which precipitated the seizure. I was in the hospital for five days -- longer than when my dad had a quadruple bypass -- where I underwent ALL OF THE TESTS. Seriously, when a white girl in Northern Virginia gets a parasitic disease thought to be confined to developing countries, the docs get a little jumpy. I was treated with $800 horse pills (literally, drugs developed to treat horse parasites, and those are 1998 dollars, by the way) and three months' worth of anti-seizure meds, after which I was given a clean bill of health and have not had another seizure since the first and only one. Thank goodness I, an otherwise healthy 23-year-old at the time, had insurance, because the cost of all the treatment added up to about $15,000.

Now like I said, this good outcome was probably because my exposure was minimal and limited. People who are chronically exposed to the parasite will have much worse outcomes.



I'm so glad you commented with your story, that's really interesting! That one was probably the most intriguing to me since the larvae could end up in so many different places.

I've had two intestinal parasites myself (at different times) and you're so right, when a doctor finds out you have something like that going on, they flip. My second one even got me a call from the CDC so they could track me.