|Photo/US Fish and Wildlife Service|
Infection with the ‘raccoon roundworm’, Baylisascaris procyonis, although a very rare infectious disease with no more than a couple dozen cases reported, it is incredibly devastating and responds very poorly to treatment.
The infection is primarily reported in very young children ;< 2 years of age or in older children and young adults with developmental delay.
In a Letter to the Editor published Sunday in the February 2012 issue of the journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, the authors from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia report the case of a 73-year-old woman who was discovered to have the roundworm during autopsy. She is the second reported case of in Canada.
She is the oldest known person with confirmed B. procyonis neural larva migrans (NLM). According to the letter, the only previously reported case of B. procyonis NLM in an adult was in a developmentally disabled 21-year-old adult known to exhibit geophagia and pica.
The authors describe the case in the letter:
We report the case of a 73-year-old female nursing home resident with a 10-year history of moderately severe Alzheimer-type dementia. She was well-educated, had no other medical problems, and had previously resided with her husband in a rural part of British Columbia. Apart from mild confusion and poor memory, she was in good health and able to ambulate and communicate. There had been no recent change in her medical condition, and she voiced no concerns about medical problems before dying suddenly of cardiopulmonary arrest.
Microscopic examination of the brain showed Alzheimer-type pathology that was sufficiently severe to account for the patient’s dementia. In addition to this finding, lesions were seen with the larval nematode surrounded by inflammation.
The authors suggest that the woman’s dementia may have masked any neurological symptoms of this apparent mild infection with the parasitic infection.
They also suggest that her dementia may have contributed to her acquiring the infection:
The combination of confusion and poor hygiene and ambulatory state in the patient may have predisposed her to acquiring B. procyonis roundworms through ingestion of contaminated soil.