American man infected with tapeworm in brain, years after traveling to Brazil

After a 70-year illness from a bite from a tapeworm at a county fair, an American man was diagnosed with a parasitic brain infection. Dr. Jacobo Saurez-Ortiz was at the July 4th festival in…

American man infected with tapeworm in brain, years after traveling to Brazil

After a 70-year illness from a bite from a tapeworm at a county fair, an American man was diagnosed with a parasitic brain infection.

Dr. Jacobo Saurez-Ortiz was at the July 4th festival in the Brazilian town of Recife in 1940, checking with authorities on the animals that had been brought into the village. He only found a small cow but one day later, while cleaning the neighboring home, he had a “stinging” sensation on his backside and began vomiting. The next day he was taken to the hospital and the following evening, Saurez-Ortiz was taken to the hospital where it was found that he had a tapeworm in his back. His wife was devastated, Saurez-Ortiz later said, because he was the quiet one and had no problems.

Doctors were not able to remove the tapeworm, which they recognized as an intestinal amoeba that lives in the gut.

Thanks to modern medical advancements, Saurez-Ortiz and other doctors were able to treat the infection, which is known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis. Saurez-Ortiz received more than 50 units of antibiotics, antifungal drugs and more.

Those conditions meant he would have to stay in the hospital for several weeks until his condition improved. Saurez-Ortiz had to spend months in bed and saw his health deteriorate over a period of several months.

Another piece of news from Saurez-Ortiz from his ordeal: the tapeworm that took up residence in his brain and caused his symptoms was actually a mistake. Saurez-Ortiz was infected by a fungal tapeworm not the one that was initially present.

Saurez-Ortiz published a New England Journal of Medicine paper titled “For Two Lost Days in 1940, There Was a Bewildering Case of Amoeba in the Stomach:” His story was featured on TV programs and was quoted in various newspapers around the world.

Dr. Jason Spratt, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, specializes in neurovascular infections and tells Fox News that the tapeworm ingested from Saurez-Ortiz “wiped out a portion of the brain, causing a seizure [and] something that is usually cancer.”

He explains that the condition is called primary amebic meningoencephalitis and “has always been a mystery with no real treatment or cure” with the only treatment being surgery “to remove the amoeba in the brain.”

Saurez-Ortiz survived the event and went on to tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that “I am happy that I was able to have a life. When I woke up from this very difficult surgery in the hospital, I saw two people walking away and one ran off. I was excited. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

With Saurez-Ortiz’s case, stories about amoeba have been shared more frequently by health professionals and travelers of various countries, Spratt said. He shared that due to Saurez-Ortiz’s positive experience, “it makes more sense that we should make a strong effort to avoid or prevent eating meat of a nervous system-like animal.”

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