‘Wriggling’ Parasitic Worm Pulled from Woman's Brain During Surgery

Neurosurgeons in Australia were stunned to discover a light red worm alive inside a patient’s brain.
Photo: Australian National University

An 8cm parasitic roundworm was found alive and wriggling in the brain of a 64-year-old Australian woman, in a type of infection never before documented in humans.

The parasite, Ophidascaris robertsi, was pulled from the woman’s frontal lobe during surgery, and could have been there for up to two months.

The woman, who is said to be recovering well, had reported “unusual symptoms” including stomach pain, forgetfulness and depression. This eventually led to an MRI and when an abnormality was discovered, surgery.


"It was definitely not what we were expecting. Everyone was shocked," Dr Hari Priya Bandi, the operating surgeon, told BBC News.

“I was able to really feel something, and I took my tweezers and I pulled it out and I thought, ‘Gosh! What is that? It's moving!’”

Canberra hospital infectious diseases physician Dr Sanjaya Senanayake said that this was the “first-ever human case of Ophidascaris to be described in the world.”

Senanayake said Bandi had called him and said, “Oh my god, you wouldn’t believe what I just found in this lady’s brain – and it’s alive and wriggling.

“Neurosurgeons regularly deal with infections in the brain, but this was a once-in-a-career finding. No one was expecting to find that,” Senanayake told the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

Researchers said the woman probably picked up the infection via Warrigal greens, a type of grass near her home, that she cooked. The grasses are a habitat for carpet pythons who would have shed the worm’s eggs through their faeces. 

While freaky, the case also highlights the danger of diseases being passed from animals to humans.