Monsters Inside Me - Episode 4
Monsters Inside Me
New Series, Episode 4
Another of my write-ups, as I understood it, after watching Monsters Inside Me aired by Discovery/Animal Planet.
2009 - 3 year old girl
Live on farm. They keep their own animals. They also have their own water Well.
Symptoms: vomiting and diarrhoea.
One night, parents are awakend by a strange noise, like a choking noise. It was their little girl. She was being sick. Over next 4 hours vomiting gets worse. She had never been sick like this before. Mother phones doctor. Doctors think it sounds like 24-hour flu. Stomach flu? Advised to give her lots of fluids and to keep watch on her. Mother checks on her, child hadn’t moved, lying in same position as mother had left her. Mother rushes her to hospital. Vital signs are checked, her heart rate is off the chart, very erratic. IV fluids were given. Fluids help her heart rate return to normal. Doctors decide she can go home. Doctors think it’s stomach flu. Mother isn’t convinced and is powerless to overrule doctors. She is sent home.
At home, girl continues to be sick. It is thick, bright yellow colour. Girl has extremely bad diarrhoea. They drive a 2 hour drive to hospital. Girl’s condition rapidly deteriorates. Mother tries to get girl to respond, she doesn’t. Mother thought she was dying there and then, in the car. Little girl is barely conscious.
The little girl was dehydrated because of amount of diarrhoea stools. 30lbs in weight day before her symptoms started. By now she had lost one third of her body weight. Stool sample tests were taken and analysed. She tests positive for Cryptosporidium. It is a single celled parasite, wreaks havoc when it gets into gut. Attaches to lining of small intestine. Prevents host from getting nutrients. Causes vomiting and diarrhoea. The constant diarrhoea pushes nutrients out of the body. Healthy adults can usually recover from this. The young and immune compromised have trouble fighting this off. It is highly infectious. Entire family could be exposed to the parasite. They must track down the source.
It starts in water or soil. As cysts. Often picked up by cows and they pass into soil. Most common way to infect human is through contaminated water.
Health officials arrive at the family home. They test the Well at the family home. The water is tested. Results are staggering. The family doesn’t drink the water from the Well. They found a crack in the Well and thought that the little girl had been infected through playing in the garden.
After 8 days in hospital she is parasite free after being given drugs to kill the parasite. She is soon back to normal and gains the weight she lost.
Most people who get infected do survive.
2007 - Male Firefighter
Comes home from work feeling unwell. Flu-like symptoms. He has been sick a lot. (The man already has an auto-immune condition where he does feel unwell from time to time). These latest symptoms, he just thinks it’s to do with his auto-immune condition and that it will pass. After 5 days in bed, his symptoms have not improved. In fact they have got worse. He complains of sore head, worse than migraine. His wife rushes him to hospital. By the time he arrives he is seriously ill. Doctors run battery of tests and they think it’s Meningitis. (Inflammation of brain and spinal chord).
Two weeks later he does not feel any better. He still feels very sick. This time the doctors decide to test his spinal fluid. The results are terrifying. The spinal fluid pressure is 6 times more than normal. They must drill a hole in his skull. He is very close to death. The procedure works and the pressure subsides but the agonising headaches remain.
In desperate attempt, his doctors prescribe powerful antibiotics but they don’t work. He gets worse by the minute. His wife doesn’t believe it’s Meningitis. He can no longer walk, talk or even eat. Friends and family don’t recognise him. He has lost weight. Doctors scan his brain for abnormalities. Results show damage to tissue, lesions. Like scarring on the brain. Lesions can be caused by injury or even birth defects.
Two weeks later, a further scan reveals that the lesions have begun to grow and the headaches have become even worse. He was in so much pain. He is rushed to another hospital. The doctor thinks the lesions are either a tumour or some kind of infectious process going on. A biopsy would reveal the truth. Four weeks after being admitted, he is finally in surgery. His skull is opened and doctors examine the lesions. They are perplexed. His brain didn’t look normal at all. It didn’t look like a normal infection. A large proportion of his brain had died.
Ten days later the results are back. He had a parasite growing in his brain. Balamuthia Mandrillaris. Inside the skull it feeds on the brain, nourished by the rich tissue it flourishes. How did the amoeba get into his brain? It doesn’t need a host to survive. It travels through the air, attached to dust particles. In rare occasions, it gets into humans. It enters blood stream and gets to the brain.
He was involved in controlling wild fires. They think this could be the cause as to how he picked the parasite up. He possibly inhaled the amoeba through his job, fighting these wild fires. The dust and ash gets into the air and this is possibly how he picked it up.
The parasite was able to proliferate because the man didn’t have antibodies and couldn’t fight it off. The doctors begin flooding his system with antibiotics. But he kept getting worse. Four weeks later he is on life support. His wife said he looked old.
117 days since he fell ill, they make the most difficult decision they have to face. They decide to switch off his life support machine. That day, he loses his battle against the parasite. He dies at the age of 43.
18 year old girl
Symptoms - Problems with eyesight. As day goes on, doesn’t improve. She doesn’t tell her mother or visit doctor. She thinks it will go away. Four weeks after problem began, she notices her left eye looks different. She thought her left eye was droopy. She now begins to think something serious is going on. Her mother then notices it. Her mother notices her left eye isn’t tracking. She asks if she is seeing ok out of her left eye.
Her mother takes her to the doctors. She has an eye examination. He looks into her eyes, right eye is fine. He looks and looks again into her left eye and he goes to make a phone call without saying anything more. He comes back and tells her he has made an urgent appointment for her to go and see another eye doctor at an Eye Institute.
Her left eye, he is perplexed by what he finds. He can see that the retina is detached. This can cause blindness. She is very young and he doesn’t understand. When he takes a closer look he sees something more bizarre! He sees cyst like structures, some of which look like they are moving on their own. He has never seen a cyst that moves. He is shocked at what he sees. Something is alive in her left eye and it is destroying her vision.
She needs an urgent operation on her eye. An incision is made into her left eye. There are multiple cyst like structures in the vitreous fluid. It is filled with cysts. He extracts them one by one. He finds approximately 28 structures. Pathologists examine the cysts under microscope. They find Tanae Crassicepts Tape Worm! It is extremely rare in humans.
As larvae, they wreak havoc. They feed on the vitreous fluid. It can cause blindness.
It starts its life in something like a Coyote. Rats eat the infected faeces of the Cayote. Coyotes often roam around where the girl lives. This could well be the where she picked up the parasite. Doctors think if she hadn’t washed her hands thoroughly this is perhaps how she could have picked up the parasite.
The good news is that they managed to remove all the cysts but sadly there is damage to her left eye.
I don't know anyone personally. You could contact a Tropical Medicine Specialist, Immunologist, or Infectious Disease physician. If you contact an ID physician, you might want to inquire if they’ve treated HIV patients successfully or specialized in HIV. The ID physicians who treat HIV patients are more familiar with parasites than those who don’t treat HIV people regularly.
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