An unnamed French woman, aged 35, fell victim to a tapeworm that is commonly hosted by grazing animals and dogs, and fortunately, survived both the initial shock and subsequent treatment, according to a report published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The first symptoms, like inability to stand upright and legs losing sensation, as well as preliminary blood tests pointed to some sort of infection, however an MRI gave the game away: the woman appeared to have a serious lesion in the middle part of her backbone. It was further revealed that painful “electric,” as she put it, shocks in both legs could have been caused by larval cysts from a dog tapeworm, which were spotted in the lesion that was later surgically removed and replaced with an implant.
Humans are viewed as "accidental" hosts of the parasite, because they aren't involved in transmitting the disease formally called cystic echinococcosis, back to dogs, according to the World Health Organization. The "adult" form of the worm lives in dogs’ intestines, with eggs accidentally reaching elsewhere as dogs defecate. Barn animals such as horses and sheep may be the tapeworm’s secondary hosts, which can, although rarely, transmit the illness to humans — this was apparently the case with the French woman, an avid horse rider.
This saga, luckily, has a positive end: nine months after surgery the woman was re-examined and confirmed to be free of the dangerous parasite, capable of reaching as far as the central nervous system.