Parasites of the brain are small and harmful organisms that feed on brain fluids. Most potentially harmful organisms cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier, but two types of parasites can. These parasites are the pork tapeworm, known as taenia solium, and the amoeba, naegleria fowleri. They are extremely rare in developed countries, so a thorough medical examination and treatment are necessary if a person is found to have a brain parasite.
The most common symptoms of parasitic infection are inflammation and neurological problems, including seizures. MRI scans can help rule out other possible causes of neurological problems. Parasitic infection in the brain requires several tests from the veterinarian, including histopathology of the brain with a variety of stains. Trichrome stains, fluorescent stains, and Fungi-Fluor stains are effective for identifying these parasites. The presence of sediment in urine may also be a factor.
As with any disease, there are distinct stages of a parasitic infection. The first stage, the viable cyst, does not cause a significant inflammatory response. It then degenerates with the surrounding brain edema and forms a granuloma, which may eventually lead to calcified lesions of the brain. Infections may progress to more advanced stages if co-infections exist.
A chronic infection of toxoplasma can cause permanent brain damage if the brain is not treated. The disease is most likely to result in severe psychiatric and neurological disorders, and it can cause mood changes and even atypical behavior. The immune system may not be able to properly respond to the infection in an immunocompromised patient. The immune system may not have the ability to combat the parasites on their own, which is why it is so important to seek medical attention when signs and symptoms are apparent.
Because the symptoms of a brain infection may vary from one person to another, a medical evaluation is necessary to determine the specific diagnosis. During a physical exam, a doctor will evaluate motor and sensory functions. Imaging studies may be necessary to determine the presence of inflammation in the brain or lesions in the spinal cord. A brain MRI or CT scan will help determine the presence of an abscess. A blood test may also reveal any signs of infection.
Despite its rarity, there are already cases of patients with this condition in the United States. In fact, some cases of parasitic infections of the brain have resulted in fatal consequences. A recent case of neurocysticercosis in an Indian man’s brain prompted the discovery of a baby tapeworm. The condition can also lead to hallucinations and insomnia. This disease is highly contagious and is extremely dangerous if not treated.
Patients with CM-associated epilepsy often have first-degree relatives who suffer from the condition. An anti-malaria drug may reduce the swelling of the brain, but surgery is required in severe cases. In some cases, seizures occur during both the acute and chronic stages of the disease. In addition to epilepsy, the patient may develop other neurological complications, including sclerosing keratitis and chorioretinitis.