Doctors in China removed a 3-inch long tapeworm from a 10-year-old boy's brain after he began twitching uncontrollably.
Xiaofei's face and body reportedly started twitching about a month before the operation, which took place June 27, according to the Daily Mail. One of his teachers at school noticed, and he was sent to a village hospital before being transferred to a larger hospital, where he was given medication.
The treatment appeared to work, and Xiaofei was sent home after his symptoms improved. But soon after he began twitching again, now up to 20 times per day.
His mother brought him to the hospital once again, and after undergoing a series of scans, doctors determined that there was a parasite living in the boy's brain. They removed the worm a few days later.
Xiaofei's mother was shocked to learn of the cause of her son's condition.
"I'd never imagined there could be such a long worm in my son's head," she said, according to the Daily Mail.
The official diagnosis was sparganosis, and doctors speculated that Xiaofei contracted it by drinking contaminated well water. His mother said almost everyone in her village drinks the same well water.
In addition to drinking contaminated water, humans can become infected with sparganosis by eating raw or undercooked fish or pork, according to the Tropical Medicine Central Resource. It can also be acquired by applying raw infected poultice to the skin – this is a common remedy for wounds in parts of Asia.
The parasite starts out in the veins and eventually moves into the brain.