Doctors Surgically Removed 28-Pounds of Feces From Constipated Man

A 22-year old Chinese man found himself in the hospital in really bad shape; he was weak and moaning in pain, his stomach so distended he looked 9 months pregnant. He had chronic constipation for most of his life and got to the point that laxatives couldn’t provide total relief from his pain and discomfort.

The patient looked like he was about to burst anytime!

Source: IBTimes
He was sent to surgery and after three hours, doctors were able to remove a massively swollen large intestine filled with feces; it weighed 28.6 pounds or 13 kilograms!

Source: Daily Mail UK
“It looked like it could explode at any time,” said Doctor Yin Lu of Shanghai Tenth People’s Hospital.

The patient was diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease. It is a congenital condition in which nerve cells were missing in the bowel, which results to chronic problems in movement. Compared to a healthy digestive tract, food and waste stops in affected parts of the colon. The waste or the feces gathers up in the area and causes the large intestine to swell. In this patient’s case, it has turned into a “megacolon,” and if not operated on quickly could result to tearing or perforation and will release fecal bacteria that can cause sepsis.

This could lead to death so the man was lucky to have this operation just in time to save his life.

Source: Daily Mail UK
The disease is rare; it occurs in only 1 out of 5,000 newborns within 48 hours after birth. It can also manifest in older children through chronic constipation, distended belly, and malnutrition. The patient was already an adult when he was admitted to imagine the build-up of waste residing in his colon!

He was expected to recover fully after the operation. His story is a reminder for us all to monitor our bowel movements and keep our GI tract healthy. So if you notice constant abdominal pain and bloating that just wouldn’t go away, a trip to the doctor is a must.

Alzheimer’s: Landmark study unravels secrets of how brain cells degenerate

A hallmark of Alzheimer’s is the build up of amyloid beta protein in the brainiStock
A new study has untangled the process by which brain cells in Alzheimer’s patients degenerate, a mystery which scientists have not been able to explain fully till now. The team from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine (UNC) believe the findings will open up new avenues of research into how to treat and prevent the disease.

In the brains of people with the disease, three seemingly separate phenomena can be observed. Firstly, there are abnormal amounts of two different proteins – called amyloid beta and tau. As well as this, the brain’s immune cells –which protect the body against infectious disease and foreign invaders – are usually found in an activated state. But scientists have struggled to understand how these three contributing factors combine to drive the disease.

However, the UNC team have established a link between the three elements by examining lab-grown human cell cultures which were designed to mimic conditions in the brain. They found that the amyloid beta proteins created a striking inflammatory response in the body’s immune cells which in turn can damage neurons – the cells that transmit electrical impulses in the brain.

Following this realisation, they were able to show how this kind of neuron damage led to the formation of abnormal swellings resembling a string of beads. These formations were filled with the tau protein. Bead-like structures such as these are often found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

This ‘beading’ process, as it is known, has been observed in Alzheimer’s patients and has been considered an early sign of brain damage. However, up until now, the link between tau proteins and ‘beading’ was unclear. Scientists were also not certain if ‘beading’ necessarily led to Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s exciting that we were able to observe tau – the major Alzheimer’s protein – inside these beaded structures,” said Todd Cohen, an assistant professor of neurology. “We think that preventing these structures from forming would leave people with healthier neurons that are more resistant to Alzheimer’s.”

Finally, the researchers identified the important role of two more proteins – called MMP-9 and HDAC6 respectively – which act as a catalyst, creating the perfect conditions for these interconnected processes to occur. They are also found in high concentrations in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

The implications of this are important because now that these two crucial proteins have been identified, they could be targeted by new drugs which could treat or even prevent Alzheimer’s. In fact, drug companies are currently developing and testing HDAC6 inhibitors which work by limiting the effects of this protein. These drugs have performed surprisingly well in early studies but scientists have not fully understood the mechanisms by which they were working.

“Our work might explain why HDAC6 inhibitors have shown such early promise,” Cohen adds.

Furthermore, treatments focused on blocking the effects of MMP-9 and HDAC6 could also prove useful elsewhere. This is because the creation of the bead-like structures seen in the experiment is also seen in various other neurodegenerative conditions, as well as head injuries. This ‘beading’ has even been detected on a small scale in otherwise healthy elderly brains. Indeed, Cohen suggests that it might be one of the processes that contributes to general cognitive decline.

Nasa’s new Mars mission InSight hopes to uncover the mysteries of the Red Planet’s interior

InSight is the first mission dedicated to investigating the deep interior of Mars.Nasa/JPL-Caltech
Nasa’s next mission to Mars, the first to examine the Red Planet’s interior, is set to go ahead next May. The spacecraft will depart from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in what will also be the first ever interplanetary space launch from America’s West Coast.

The mission, called InSight, was originally planned for March last year; however, it was postponed due to a leaky container which creates near-vacuum conditions for the lander’s main sensors. The part has since been redesigned and Nasa can now confirm the project is back on track.

“We have fixed the problem we had two years ago, and we are eagerly preparing for launch,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight Project Manager of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Nasa hope that data gathered from the mission will help us to understand more about how all rocky planets, including the Earth formed.

“Because the interior of Mars has churned much less than Earth’s in the past three billion years, Mars likely preserves evidence about rocky planets’ infancy better than our home planet does,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight Principal Investigator and leader of the international team that proposed the mission.

Currently, the spacecraft is undergoing final assembly and testing conducted by Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

Opportunities to reach Mars only occur roughly every two years and last just a few weeks due to its alignment with the Earth. So, while an exact date for the launch has not been given, the craft is expected to reach Mars sometime in November 2018, if the mission is successful.

The lander, which includes two unfolding solar panels that span 20 feet (6 metres), will touch down permanently near the equator of the Red Planet and will place its instruments on the surface using a robotic arm.

A heat probe will dig up to 10 feet (3 metres) into the Martian surface and will examine the energy coming from the planet’s interior. Meanwhile, an incredibly sensitive seismometer, able to detect ground movements half the diameter of a hydrogen atom, will detect any seismic activity or meteor impacts, revealing more information about what’s going on below the surface.

Finally, the lander will analyse radio transmissions between itself and Earth to determine exactly how Mars rotates on its axis giving researchers clues about the size of the planet’s core.

InSight takes its place alongside a host of other current and planned missions to Mars by various space agencies, which will lay the groundwork for human exploration of the Red Planet, a goal Nasa hopes to achieve sometime in the 2030s.

Ancient bones provide scientists with clues to why woolly rhinos went extinct

Authors Alexandra van der Geer (left) and Frietson Galis (right) investigating a vertebra of a woolly rhino.Jacques van Alphen
Researchers examining the remains of woolly rhinos – an extinct ancestor of the modern animal – have found clues which could explain the decline and eventual demise of the species.

A team from the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands, were comparing the bones of various ancient and modern rhino remains when they noticed that many of the woolly rhino neck vertebrae had ribs connected to them, whereas the modern ones did not.

In modern mammals, the presence of a so-called ‘cervical rib’ – a rib attached to a neck vertebra – is unusual, and while it doesn’t cause any harm to the animal, it is often associated with inbreeding and poor environmental conditions during pregnancy.

This led the researchers to suggest that the considerable developmental abnormalities linked to this condition contributed to the extinction of the species in the Late Pleistocene era (about 126,000 to 5,000 years ago).

The team built on the work of a previous study which had found a remarkably high percentage of these neck ribs in the skeletons of the extinct woolly mammoth.

“This aroused our curiosity to also check the woolly rhino, a species that, like the woolly mammoth lived during the late Pleistocene and similarly died out”, said Alexandra van der Geer, an author of the study.

“The woolly rhino bones were all dredged from the North Sea and river deltas in the Netherlands. We knew these were just about the last rhinos living there, so we suspected something could be wrong here as well. Our work now shows that there was indeed a problem in the woolly rhino population”.

Woolly rhinoceros, woolly mammoths, cave lions, and Equus lambei herd in late Pleistocene northern Spain, by Mauricio Antón.Mauricio Antón
The study, published in the open access journal PeerJ, may also have implications for the study of modern rhinos.

“Our study suggests that monitoring the health of the vertebrae in rhinos has the potential to timely detect developmental errors that indicate the level of extinction risk”, said Frietson Galis, another author of the study.

While the researchers found no cervical ribs in the samples of modern rhinos, this is no indication that the population today is healthy as many current specimens were collected at least fifty years ago.

In fact, rhinoceros numbers are rapidly declining, a trend that has only exaggerated over the last twenty years, resulting in some species becoming critically endangered and the total extinction of the western black rhinoceros.

A Prehistoric Woolly Rhinoceros from the pleistocene periodGetty Images

The biotechnology trial of the century over CRISPR patent settled in US court

The patent dispute over CRISPR technology has been settled.

AN INFLUENTIAL US science advisory committee this week said genetic modification of human embryos should be allowed in the future to eliminate diseases, sparking new debate on a controversial topic.

The report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) caused concern among some researchers who fear that genetic tools could be used to boost certain people’s intelligence or create people with particular physical traits.

“Clinical trials for genome editing of the human germ line — adding, removing or replacing DNA base pairs in gametes or early embryos — could be permitted in the future,” said the report, released Wednesday (AEST).

“But only,” it added, “for serious conditions under stringent oversight.”

What is CRISPR?

The emergence of inexpensive and accurate gene-editing technology, known as CRISPR/Cas9, has fuelled “an explosion of new research opportunities and potential clinical applications, both heritable and non-heritable, to address a wide range of human health issues,” the report said.
The committee of international experts was convened to examine scientific, ethical and governance issues surrounding human genome editing.

The experts noted that clinical trials on gene editing for certain non-hereditary traits are already under way.

“These therapies affect only the patient, not any offspring, and should continue for treatment and prevention of disease and disability, using the existing ethical norms and regulatory framework for development of gene therapy,” it said.

There is plenty of concern about the designer human floodgates opening.Source:YouTube

The warning come as a major patent battle over the technology was settled in the US in recent days.

What many described as the biotechnology trial of the century, the Broad Institute won the patent to the popular gene-editing process known as CRISPR/Cas-9.

The legal battle over who really invented the technology pitted Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute — a research facility affiliated with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — against French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin and biochemist Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley.

Both sides claimed to have developed CRISPR-Cas9, which allows scientists to edit stretches of the genome by removing, adding or changing pieces of the DNA sequence.

Jennifer Doudna of UC Berkeley ultimately lost out in the dispute.Source:Getty Images

Scientists say the technology has the potential to cure diseases but also raises ethical questions, particularly when it comes to the prospect of forever altering the human race.

Charpentier and Doudna have won multiple prizes in the past four years and were widely considered to have discovered this gene-editing technique. Their work was first published in the journal Science in June 2012.

“This important decision affirms the inventiveness of the Broad’s work in translating the biology of the natural world into fundamental building blocks to create unprecedented medicines,” said a statement by Katrine Bosley, president and chief executive officer of Editas Medicine, which has an exclusive licence on the Broad Institute’s patent for human-therapy applications.

The Atlantic magazine described Editas Medicine as “the biggest winner.”

“Assuming the patent decision does not change, Editas will be the major player in human CRISPR therapies in the foreseeable future,” it said.

New frontier in cancer care: Turning blood into living drugs

Immune therapy is the hottest trend in cancer care and its next frontier is creating ‘living drugs’ that grow inside the body into an army that seeks and destroys tumours. Picture: Elaine Thompson

KEN Shefveland’s body was swollen with cancer, treatment after treatment failing until doctors gambled on a radical approach: They removed some of his immune cells, engineered them into cancer assassins and unleashed them into his bloodstream.

Immune therapy is the hottest trend in cancer care and this is its next frontier — creating “living drugs” that grow inside the body into an army that seek and destroy tumours.

Looking in the mirror, Shefveland saw “the cancer was just melting away.”

A month later doctors at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center couldn’t find any signs of lymphoma in the man’s body.

“Today I find out I’m in full remission — how wonderful is that?” said Shefveland with a wide grin, giving his physician a quick embrace. This experimental therapy marks an entirely new way to treat cancer — if scientists can make it work, safely. Early-stage studies are stirring hope as one-time infusions of supercharged immune cells help a remarkable number of patients with intractable leukaemia or lymphoma.

“It shows the unbelievable power of your immune system,” said Dr David Maloney, Fred Hutch’s medical director for cellular immunotherapy who treated Shefveland with a type called CAR-T cells.

David Maloney of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is greeted by patient Ken Shefveland, whose lymphoma was successfully treated with CAR-T cell therapy. Picture: Elaine ThompsonSource:AP

“We’re talking, really, patients who have no other options, and we’re seeing tumours and leukaemia disappear over weeks,” added immunotherapy scientific director Dr Stanley Riddell. But, “there’s still lots to learn.”

T cells are key immune system soldiers. But cancer can be hard for them to spot, and can put the brakes on an immune attack. Today’s popular immunotherapy drugs called “checkpoint inhibitors” release one brake so nearby T cells can strike. The new cellular immunotherapy approach aims to be more potent: Give patients stronger T cells to begin with.

Currently available only in studies at major cancer centres, the first CAR-T cell therapies for a few blood cancers could hit the market later this year in the US.

The country’s Food and Drug Administration is evaluating one version developed by the University of Pennsylvania and licensed to Novartis, and another created by the National Cancer Institute and licensed to Kite Pharma.

CAR-T therapy “feels very much like it’s ready for prime time” for advanced blood cancers, said Dr Nick Haining of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who isn’t involved in the development.

Now scientists are tackling a tougher next step, what Haining calls “the acid test”: Making T cells target far more common cancers — solid tumours like lung, breast or brain cancer.

Cancer kills about 600,000 Americans a year, including nearly 45,000 from leukaemia and lymphoma. In Australia, cancer is estimated to the cause of more than 47,000 deaths in 2017, according to Cancer Australia statistics.

In this photo taken March 29, 2017, cell production associate Herley Beyene places containers of immune cells in a centrifuge at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Researchers are genetically reprogramming patients’ immune cells to create “living drugs” that better seek and destroy cancer. Picture: Elaine ThompsonSource:AP

“There’s a desperate need,” said NCI immunotherapy pioneer Dr Steven Rosenberg, pointing to queries from hundreds of patients for studies that accept only a few. But for all the excitement, there are formidable challenges.

Scientists still are unravelling why these living cancer drugs work for some people and not others.

Doctors must learn to manage potentially life-threatening side effects from an overstimulated immune system. Also concerning is a small number of deaths from brain swelling, an unexplained complication that forced another company, Juno Therapeutics, to halt development of one CAR-T in its pipeline; Kite recently reported a death, too.

And, made from scratch for every patient using their own blood, this is one of the most customised therapies ever and could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It’s a Model A Ford and we need a Lamborghini,” said CAR-T researcher Dr Renier Brentjens of New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which, like Hutch, has a partnership with Juno.

In Seattle, Fred Hutch offered a behind-the-scenes peek at research underway to tackle those challenges. At a recently opened immunotherapy clinic, scientists are taking newly designed T cells from the lab to the patient and back again to tease out what works best.

“We can essentially make a cell do things it wasn’t programmed to do naturally,” explained immunology chief Dr Philip Greenberg.

“Your imagination can run wild with how you can engineer cells to function better.”

The cell processing facility at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center where workers create customised cellular immunotherapies for patients.Source:AP

Can soundwave tattoos actually play a child’s laugh from your phone?

Soundwave tattoos are a strange new body art trend.

BIZARRE soundwave tattoos that let you inscribe a loved-one’s voice or your favourite tune onto your body have gone viral.

A tattoo parlour says its audio squiggles can be transformed into sound using a smartphone app they are planning to launch next month.

Does that mean you can get that meaningful quote you got while boozing it up in Bali to sing?

Not quite.

But Soundwave Tattoos claims to be able to tattoo up to a minute of audio on your body.

They say that all you need to do is hold a camera phone to the finished inking and you’ll hear it play.

Inventor Nate Siggard revealed that he already has a recording of his child’s infectious laughter on his leg.

Another recent YouTube clip published by the company shows tattoo artist, Juliana, got her dog Baci’s bark on her arm.

Some have claimed that the concept is a hoax, but Soundwave Tattoos insists the new technology is completely legitimate.

First fill in the soundwave tattoo.Source:YouTube

Then use the app to let your ears enjoy your new ink.Source:YouTube

HOW DOES IT WORK?

According to founder Nate Siggard, the idea came about when two friends got the opening line from Tiny Dancer tattooed. As they were leaving after their appointment, Nate’s girlfriend Juliana said “wouldn’t it be cool if you could listen to the tattoo?” and Nate quickly realised that he could make that happen.

Nate decided he needed one of his own, with Juliana and their 4-month-old baby saying “I love you” and filmed it to share online. He posted the video on Facebook the next day, and it immediately went viral.

Messages started pouring in from people all over the world who wanted to get one too.

Nate quickly realised the potential for a way to make Soundwave Tattoos available for everyone. And although it seems almost to good to be true, Nate claims to be creating an app which brings tattoos to life.

In theory, the app should scan a picture of the waveform and converts the digital image data into a digital sound file, which it can play.

The website states: “We invented a way to play soundwave tattoos on your phone or tablet.
“Record a message from a loved one. Wear your lyrics.

“With our unique patent pending technology, turn up to 1:00 minute of sound into a tattoo you can listen to with your mobile device.”

For now, it claims to be taking appointments in its Californian parlour.

But Soundwave Tattoos said it has already received applications from hundreds of artists in 15 different countries who want to train up.

Innovative artificial womb prototype could give premature babies a better shot at life

An illustration of a fluid-filled incubation system that mimics a mother’s womb, in hopes of one day improving survival of extremely premature babies.

AN ARTIFICIAL womb has been successfully used to incubate baby lambs and researchers hope the technology will soon be able to do the same for premature human infants.

The watery incubation system is the first of its kind so closely mimics the conditions of the womb that it could give premature babies a much better chance at starting life.

Today, premature babies weighing as little as a 450 grams are hooked to ventilators and other machines inside little special capsules.

For those that survive, they will often struggle with simple bodily functions that we take for granted such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing.

Lamb grows in external womb

But the creation of an artificial womb could allow them the chance to better continue their development of their lungs and other important organs before being brought into the world.

The contraption which amounts to a prenatal fluid-filled plastic bag with an attached mechanical placenta could give them the precious extra few weeks they need.

Premature babies face a number of daunting challenges.Source:Supplied

“Our system could prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants by potentially offering a medical technology that does not currently exist,” said the study’s lead author Dr Alan Flake.

He is a foetal surgeon and the director of the Center for Fetal Research in the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and has high hopes for the project.

“We’re trying to extend normal gestation,” he said.

Increasingly hospitals attempt to save the most critically premature infants, those born before 26 weeks gestation and even those right at the limits of viability — 22 to 23 weeks.

Extreme prematurity is a leading cause of infant mortality, and those who do survive frequently have serious disabilities such as cerebral palsy.

About one in 10 Australian babies are born prematurely, considered to be those born before 37 weeks gestation.

The researchers created a fluid-filled transparent container to simulate how foetuses float in amniotic fluid inside mum’s uterus, and attached it to a mechanical placenta that keeps blood oxygenated.

In early-stage animal testing, extremely premature lambs grew, apparently normally, inside the system for three to four weeks, the team reported.

The lambs grew wool and even opened their eyes inside the artificial wombs. Picture: Nature CommunicationsSource:Supplied

In the current study, the researchers describe the evolution of their system over three years, through a series of four prototypes, beginning with a glass incubator tank, and progressing to the current device.

The eight preterm lambs tested in the most recent prototype were physiologically equivalent to a 23 or 24-week-gestation human infant.

The idea of treating premmies in fluid-filled incubators may sound strange, but physiologically it makes sense, Dr Catherine Spong, a foetal medicine specialist at the National Institutes of Health told the Associated Press.

“This is really an innovative, promising first step,” she said.

One of the biggest risks for very young premmies is that their lungs aren’t ready to breathe air, she explained. Before birth, amniotic fluid flows into their lungs, bringing growth factors crucial for proper lung development.

Foetal physiologist Marcus G. Davey of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who helped design the artificial womb system. He is shown near giant tanks holding a liquid designed to simulate amniotic fluid.Source:AP

HOW THE “BIOBAG” WORKS

The premature lambs were delivered by C-section and immediately placed into a temperature-controlled bag filled with a substitute for amniotic fluid that they swallow and take into their lungs.

“We make gallons of this stuff a day,” said foetal physiologist Marcus Davey. It’s currently an electrolyte solution but he’s working to add other factors to make it more like real amniotic fluid.

Then the researchers attached the umbilical cord to a machine that exchanges carbon dioxide in blood with oxygen, like a placenta normally does. Then the lamb’s heart circulates the blood, without the need for any other pump.

The scientists tested five lambs and all of them appeared to grow normally, with blood pressure and other key health measures stable and few complications during the weeks they were inside the device.

The study didn’t address long-term development. Most of the lambs were euthanized for a further study that found normal organ development for their gestational age. One was bottle-weaned and is now more than a year old, apparently healthy and living on a farm in Pennsylvania.

Edible ‘CRISPR pill’ could help combat superbugs, food scientist says

A new take on a revolutionary gene-editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9 could help combat the spread of drug resistant superbugs, scientists say.

A NEW take on a revolutionary gene-editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9 could help combat the spread of drug resistant superbugs, scientists say.

Researchers at a US university want to replicate the capability of CRISPR — which lets scientists edit human genes to remove nasty diseases — by creating a pill that does a similar thing by targeting bad bacteria, causing it to self destruct.

Specifically, the probiotic cocktail would “kill your bacteria of choice,” said food scientist Jan-Peter Van Pijkeren of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He believes the idea could be used to fight germs like Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that can cause fatal infections in hospitals and nursing homes.

What is CRISPR?

According to the The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, C. difficile “has emerged as a serious worldwide public health threat, capable of causing a range of problems from mild diarrhoea to … death.”

To understand the methodology that underpins the idea of a CRISPR pill, you need to understand the basic way CRISPR-Cas 9 works.

The name is an acronym for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” which refers to the way bacteria works to fight off infection.

Bacteria store memories of viral DNA in their own genomes and use this memory (think of it like a wanted poster) along with a DNA-slicing enzyme (molecular scissors) known as a Cas to recognise and chop up the genes of invading viruses which infect bacteria, known as bacteriophage.

The “CRISPR pill”, or probiotic bacteria drink, developed by Prof Van Pijkeren would include a bacteriophage capable of carrying a customised CRISPR message to C. difficile. The message would cause C. difficile to make lethal cuts to its own DNA, effectively killing itself.

The method could prove much more precise than using antibiotics and help address the growing problem of human resistance.

“The downside of antibiotics is they are a sledgehammer that depletes and destroys the gut microbial community,” Prof van Pijkeren said in a statement.

“You want to instead use a scalpel in order to specifically eradicate the microbe of interest.”

The innovative research is still in its infancy and hasn’t even been tested on animals yet. But with the growing problem of antibiotics overprescription and resistance, the research highlights the potential of CRISPR-related technologies in providing ways to provide alternative treatments to the customary antibiotics.

However, Peter Fineran, a microbiologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand told the MIT Technological Review that “there is still quite a long way to go before this replaces our current antibiotics.”

But if it proves successful, CRISPR could become not just the world’s most effective gene editing tool, but also the best bacteria-killing technology available.

In just four short years, scientists have refined the CRISPR-Cas9 technique in order to replicate it quickly, easily and cheaply in everything from plants to animals to human cells in a discovery that could ultimately render genetic diseases obsolete.

But it also has a dark side that could wipe out entire species or pave the way for “designer babies” which has raised huge ethical questions about its use.

US Health officials issue urgent warning after spate of brain-invading worm attacks

Rat lungworm cases have broken out in Hawaii causing serious concern among health experts.

HEALTH officials in the US have issued an urgent warning about brain-invading worms capable of sneaking into human skulls and killing you.

Medics in Hawaii have been warning people not to touch snails or slugs with their bare hands as the beasts carry a parasite called rat lungworm.

In two hundreds years, there have been only two reports of rat lungworm infections on the island.

But in the past three months, six more cases have cropped up in close succession.

The parasite has also popped up in California, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.

And now there are concerns that the worm — which experts claim could be caused by climate change — could spread globally.

Rat lungworm is a parasite that begins its life as an infection in rat’s blood, brains and lungs.

Rats defecate its worm larvae, which is then spread to snails, slugs and seafood.

Humans might eat one of these infected hosts and within weeks their brain could be invaded.

Once it lodges in the brain it can cause meningitis and symptoms like pain, swelling and tremors.

It is often fatal.

Doctors tend to treat it with a combination of therapies including antiparasitic drugs, cortical steroids and supportive care.

Tricia Mynar, a resident of Maui and a preschool worker, told Honolulu Civil Beat: “The parasites are in the lining of my brain, moving around.”

“Tremors are the hardest part,” she said. “They affect me so badly that sometimes I can’t hear my own speech.”

Rat lungworms burrow into your bloodstream before making their way to your brain.Source:Supplied

A report in the Maui News revealed how residents are terrified of catching the worm.

Kawika Kaina said that the culprit breed of slug had lived near their homes for years, but they figured the slugs were like any other snail.

It was only on receipt of a flyer from the Department for Health that he realised how serious the problem had become.

“It really did hit close to home. Just recently a lot of folks in Hana (Hawaii) have become more aware of it and a lot more people are finding it in their yard,” he said.

Burning, smashing or even burying the worms have so far not successfully deterred rats from ingesting them and restarting the cycle.

And experts fear that deforestation and climate change could spread the disease further afield.