A woman who kept falling over and felt tingling in her legs was shocked to discover the cause.
The 35-year-old ended up in the hospital where medics scanned her spine and, to their surprise, they found tapeworm larvae wriggling around the patient’s vertebrae.
The French woman, who is not named, arrived at the hospital complaining of suffering what felt like “electric shocks” running down her legs.
She felt weak and had experienced a number of falls.
Doctors at the hospital in Dijon noted she hadn’t traveled out of France but did own a cat and came into contact with cows.
They wrote in a case report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine: “Physical examination revealed impaired sensation in both legs and weak foot flexion.”
As well as examining the patient, they ran a series of tests.
The results showed the 35-year-old had a raised white blood cell count.
But it was an MRI scan that revealed the true cause of the woman’s pain.
The scan showed a lesion at her ninth vertebra — in the middle of her spine.
Surgeons investigated and found the lesion was, in fact, tapeworm larvae, caused by an infection of Echinococcus granulosus — a small tapeworm found in dogs and some farm animals.
The tapeworm can cause a disease called echinococcosis, which can cause dangerous cysts to grow in the lungs, liver and other organs.
The doctors’ report added: “Infection can cause cystic lesions in the liver and lungs and also in the central nervous system and bones.”
They can go unnoticed and untreated for years before a person realizes they are infected.
The danger comes when cysts rupture, which can end up proving deadly, triggering mild to severe anaphylactic shock.
As well as surgery, doctors put the woman on anti-parasitic medication.
After nine months she was clear of her infection and had no symptoms of any recurrence.