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Fading Out: Aging and Beyond RSS feed

Tapeworms, man-eating amoebas, and other parasites

 How the Worm Gets in Your Brain? (Dana G. Smith and Dani Blum, NY Times, 5-8-24). The title may creep you out, but once it's asked, don't you want to know? This led me to other postings about parasites, which I (anxiously) share below.

    For example, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s disclosure that a doctor apparently found a dead worm in his brain has sparked questions about what brain parasites are, the damage they can cause and how, exactly, they get there. How do parasites turn up in people? And what can they do to the brain? Warning: Many of the following pieces are from the New York Times, for which you need a subscription. If you're not a subscriber, see if you can get access to them in your public library.


See especially this excellent resource:
Parasitic Diseases: A–Z Index: More information about specific parasites (CDC, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) After a few general articles there's a wonderful A to Z directory to information about specific parasites and diseases (in four alphabetic groups).

About Parasites (CDC)


•  R.F.K. Jr. Says Doctors Found a Dead Worm in His Brain (Susanne Craig, NY Times, 5-8-24) In 2010, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was experiencing memory loss and mental fogginess so severe that a friend grew concerned he might have a brain tumor. Mr. Kennedy said he consulted several of the country’s top neurologists, many of whom had either treated or spoken to his uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, before his death the previous year of brain cancer. About the same time he learned of the parasite, he said, he was also diagnosed with mercury poisoning, most likely from ingesting too much fish containing the dangerous heavy metal, which can cause serious neurological issues....Doctors who have treated parasitic infections and mercury poisoning said both conditions can sometimes permanently damage brain function, but patients also can have temporary symptoms and mount a full recovery."
     "Hours after this article was published, Mr. Kennedy posted a comment on his X profile. “I offer to eat 5 more brain worms and still beat President Trump and President Biden in a debate,” the post read. “I feel confident in the result even with a six-worm handicap.”


A Silver Bullet Against the Brain-Eating Amoeba? (Emily Baumgaertner, NY Times, 1-14-19) "Brain-eating monsters are real enough — they lurk in freshwater ponds in much of the United States. Now scientists may have discovered a new way to kill them. Minuscule silver particles coated with anti-seizure drugs one day may be adapted to halt Naegleria fowleri, an exceptionally lethal microbe that invades through the sinuses and feeds on human brain tissue."

---Brain-Eating Amoeba Caused Nebraska Child’s Death, Health Officials Say (Eduardo Medina, NY Times, 8-18-22) Such infections are rare. From 2012 to 2021, only 31 cases were reported in the U.S., according to federal data.

---Man Dies of ‘Brain-Eating’ Amoeba After Swimming in Lake ( Jacey Fortin, NY Times, 7-25-19) Naegleria fowleri, a single-celled organism found in warm freshwater, can be fatal if it enters the body through the nose. The amoeba is typically found in warm freshwater, and the majority of cases in the United States have occurred in Florida and Texas. According to the North Carolina health department, Naegleria fowleri “does not cause illness if swallowed but can be fatal if forced up the nose, as can occur during diving, water-skiing or other water activities.”

---A Man Died After Being Infected With a Brain-Eating Amoeba. Here Are the Facts. (Christine Hauser, NY Times, 10-1-18) Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled organism that can cause a rare infection of the brain called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, also known as PAM, which is usually fatal. The CDC reports that in 123 known cases from 1962 to 2011 in the United States, only one person has survived.

Rare Infection Prompts Neti Pot Warning (Tara Parker-Pope NY Times, 9-3-12)

     The water is the problem, not the pots.

     Neti pots — those odd teapotlike vessels used to wash out the nasal passage — have won legions of fans who rely on them for relief from allergies, congestion and colds. But now, after two cases of a deadly brain infection were linked to neti pots, government health officials have issued new warnings about using them safely: Use distilled or filtered water in a neti pot. You can use bottled water, or you can boil water and let it cool before using.

Pork Tapeworm (taeniasis and cysticercosis) Taeniasis and cysticercosis are diseases of humans caused by a tapeworm (Taenia solium) that normally infects pigs. Taeniasis is an intestinal infection with the adult stage of the tapeworm. Cysticercosis is a tissue infection with the larval stage cysts of the tapeworm.
      "People get taeniasis [pork tapeworm] from eating raw or undercooked pork that contains larval cysts. Once in the person’s intestine, the larval cysts develop into adult tapeworms and produce a large number of eggs.
    "People and pigs develop cysticercosis from swallowing the tapeworm eggs in the feces from an infected human. The eggs hatch in the small intestine and larvae migrate throughout the body before forming cysts. Cysts can form in a variety of tissues, including the brain where the condition is called neurocysticercosis."  [This is one reason they invented housecleaning.]

---Taeniasis FAQs (CDC) Eating raw or undercooked contaminated beef or pork is the primary risk factor for acquiring taeniasis. Because of this, certain groups with dietary restrictions for these meats may have a lower risk of taeniasis. Cook to at least 145° F (63° C) as measured with a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, then allow the meat to rest* for three minutes before carving or consuming.
   According to USDA, “A ‘rest time’ is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature, after it has been removed from a grill, oven, or other heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys pathogens.”

How Fat Cells Help Kick Parasites Out of Mice: Study (Natalia Mesa, The Scientist, 10-14-22) Immune cells get a lot of shine when it comes to fighting infection, but it turns out that fat might be just as important for removing parasitic invaders.
Lose the Fat and Curb Parasitic Infection (Mariella Bodemeier Loayza Careaga, The Scientist, 3-1-24) Trypanosoma brucei (T. brucei) enters its host’s body through the painful bite of infected tsetse flies, causing sleeping sickness, which can be fatal if left untreated. In her laboratory at the University of Lisbon, parasitologist Luísa Figueiredo studies the mechanisms underlying T. brucei infections.
     “It had often been thought that the wasting associated with these infections was a consequence of high parasitemia,” said Monica Mugnier, a T. brucei researcher at Johns Hopkins University who was not involved in the research. “This result shows that the fat loss may actually be a protective mechanism during the infection.”

• What other parasites are there?  Check out History of Human Parasitology (F. E. G. Cox, Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 10-15-02)

Long, detailed, academic, and not easy reading, but briefly covers Ascaris and Ascariasis (roundworms), Hookworms and Hookworm Disease, Trichinella and Trichinosis, Strongyloides and Strongyloidiasis, Dracunculus and Dracunculiasis (Guinea Worm Disease), Filarial Worms and Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis), Loa and Loiasis (Eye Worm) and Onchocerca and Onchocerciasis (River Blindness), Schistosomes and Schistosomiasis, Liver and Lung Fluke Diseases, Cestodiasis (Tapeworm Infections),


(for those requiring study under a microscope), THE PARASITIC PROTOZOA: Amoebae and Amoebiasis, Giardia and Giardiasis, African Trypanosomes and Sleeping Sickness, South American Trypanosomiasis: Chagas' Disease, Leishmania and Leishmaniasis, Malaria, Toxoplasma, Toxoplasmosis, and Infections Caused by Related Organisms, Microsporidians.


If you want to post a link to another article, please include the full URL

(such as https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/ for Parasitic Diseases: A–Z Index: More information about specific parasites).

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