Toxoplasma: How parasite ‘manipulates’ the brain
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The patient, from Rhode Island, USA, described the story of how he was diagnosed with having cladophialophora bantiana, which is an extremely rare tropical fungus. If this fungus penetrates a person’s brain, it can cause a number of severe neurological problems and is usually fatal.
After Tyson Bottenus discovered he had this rare disease, he reported suffering a stroke and having to “relearn how to walk, talk, and read”.
According to Mr Bottenus, only about 120 cases of this bizarre condition have ever been recorded around the world, and about 70 percent of those diagnosed have died from the illness.
In the feature he wrote for Buzzfeed news, his doctor was reported to have expressed his disbelief at the fact that Mr Bottenus was still alive.
He said: “It looks like the antifungals have never penetrated the blood-brain barrier, meaning you’ve been fighting this on your own – with just your immune system.
“We tested your cerebral spinal fluid after your last surgery and found zero evidence of the drugs.”
Mr Bottenus believes that he contracted the fungus while biking through a particularly dusty part of Costa Rica in 2018.
Cases of infection of Cladophialophora bantiana are most commonly found in subtropical regions with high average humidity.
During his trip to Costa Rica, Mr Bottenus had a minor crash after he let some air out of his tires to ride on the beach.
After he returned home from his trip, he developed some disconcerting neurological symptoms.
He said: “I was having frequent, intense headaches and a palsy started in my facial muscles, making it hard to smile straight.
“I went to my primary care doctor and he was flummoxed by my symptoms, so he ordered an MRI.
“He called me back the next day to tell me that there were “some things” we needed to talk about.”
The MRI scan revealed a mysterious O-shaped anomaly on Mr Bottenus’ brain.
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After eight months of testing with MRI’s, biopsies, and even spinal taps, his doctors discovered the terrifying origin of his issues: an abscess of black mould growing on his brain.
Studies into the disease found that “Long-term survival from cerebral black mould abscesses has been reported only when complete surgical resection was possible.”
The majority (57.3%) of the patients that have ever suffered from this fungus have come from Asian countries, especially India.
Mr Bottenus wrote that this kind of infection is so rare because bloodborne disorders like this generally don’t get to the brain because of what is known as the blood-brain barrier.
This complex barrier that is made up of blood vessels and organ cells generally keeps harmful substances like fungi out of the brain.
After the fungus got into Mr Bottenus’ brain, the doctors struggled to treat him as the same barrier appeared to be preventing the medication from reaching the mould as well.
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