(Rudolphi, 1819) Mueller, 1937
Spirometra erinaceieuropaei is a tapeworm that infects domestic animals and humans. In humans infection is called sparganosis. The worm has an interesting lifecycle. The adult worm is present in the small intestine of cats and dogs where it may grow as long as 1.5 metres. Eggs from the worm are passed with the host feces, when they develop into a procercoid larva. This larva may be directly ingested by humans or may enter an intermediate host which include frogs, birds, snakes, rats and mice and become a plerocercoid larva. When cats, dogs, foxes or wolves eat the intermediate host the worm completes its life cycle becoming an egg producing adult. Because humans would normally ingest the worm at the procercoid stage and are not usually eaten by cats and dogs, the human is a dead-end host.
In 2014 British man was found to have been infected by the tapeworm from an unknown cause (possibly a traditional frog meat poultice) while in China. The parasitic worm was recorded on successive MRI scans of his brain, moving location by about 5 cm before doctors realized it was alive. The 50-year old first visited doctors in 2008 suffering from headaches, seizures, memory loss, and complaining that his sense of smell had changed. The 1-cm ribbon-shaped larval worm was removed during a surgical procedure and the man recovered.
- "Parasitic tapeworm lived in man’s brain for four years" The Telegraph newspaper (London), access date 11.21.2014
- Genome Biology 2014, 15:510 doi:10.1186/s13059-014-0510-3 The genome of the sparganosis tapeworm Spirometra erinaceieuropaei isolated from the biopsy of a migrating brain lesion
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