A Boston man thought he was in good health found out otherwise when he started engaging in strange behavior early one morning.
According to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the otherwise healthy man fell out of bed at approximately 4 a.m. and started shaking on the floor.
Even stranger: the man appeared confused and was “speaking gibberish.”
The man was taken to a hospital, but doctors were stumped: He hadn’t been ill recently and there was no history of seizures or cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, genitourinary or neurologic disorders.
In addition, the man “rarely” drank alcohol or used tobacco and other illicit drugs that might have explained the strange behavior.
Although the patient didn’t verbally respond to questions or follow commands, his gag and cough reflexes were normal.
It was only after doctors performed a neurologic exam, laboratory testing and looked at cerebral imaging that the man was finally diagnosed.
Turns out, he had cysticercosis, a tapeworm infection that affects the brain, muscle and other tissues.
Although it is unknown how long the man had the condition, doctors said he emigrated from a “rural area” of Guatemala. In addition, “the disease is “indolent,” and can avoid attracting the body’s immune response system for almost five years, the study said.
However, the disease can cause lumps under the skin and an infected person can suffer headaches and seizures.
Once diagnosed, the patient was admitted to a neurosciences intensive care unit so both his lactic acid level and white-cell count could be normalized.
The man also took medicine normally used to treat epilepsy to control the seizures before getting treated with tapeworm medicine for two weeks along with four weeks of another high-dose parasite solution.