Tapeworm eggs found in man’s brain. Undercooked bacon may be to blame

Lifestyle

A 52-year-old man from the United States got a startling surprise after he was hospitalized for his worsening migraines – he was told parasitic tapeworm larvae in his brain were the cause.

The unidentified man had been complaining of week-long, aggressive headaches over four months, according to a case study published March 7 in the American Journal of Case Reports. Concerned about the escalating severity of his symptoms, he was admitted to the hospital for CT testing.

The scans revealed numerous cysts nestled within his brain. After more tests, the doctors found the root cause of his condition: parasitic tapeworm larvae, known to cause neurocysticercosis, a rare and dangerous infection of the brain.

Neurocysticercosis is a condition caused by Taenia solium when cysts embed within the nervous system [


Neurocysticercosis is a condition caused by parasitic tapeworms when cysts embed within the nervous system, according to the study. These parasites may be located anywhere from brain parenchyma to the ventricular system and spinal cord.


American Journal of Case Reports

Neurocysticercosis is the most common parasitic disease of the central nervous system and is linked to accidental ingestion of pork tapeworm eggs, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). It causes about 50,000 deaths per year and is the leading cause of epilepsy worldwide.

The CMAJ added that the prevalence of infection is increasing in developed countries as more people travel to or migrate from regions where infection is endemic. The disease remains prevalent in Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in developing countries and areas where pigs are raised as primary food sources.

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The patient’s medical team tried to find the origin of the parasitic larvae infesting his brain. According to the study, the man had not recently traveled to any high-risk areas. His only notable travel history was a cruise to the Bahamas two years prior. Further, he “denied any food insecurity,” researchers said, adding the man lived with his wife and cat in a modern home.


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On further questioning, the man also denied eating raw food but “admitted to a habit of eating lightly cooked, non-crispy bacon for most of his life,” the study said.

“Our patient’s lifelong preference for soft bacon may have led to instances of undercooked bacon consumption,” the researchers said.


Click to play video: 'Tapeworm removed from man’s brain after months of headaches'


Tapeworm removed from man’s brain after months of headaches


However, they said eating undercooked bacon would have caused him to develop taeniasis, an intestinal tapeworm, and not cysticercosis in his brain.

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“It can only be speculated, but given our patient’s predilection for undercooked pork and benign exposure history, we favor that his cysticercosis was transmitted via autoinfection after improper handwashing after he had contracted taeniasis himself from his eating habits,” they said.

Following treatment with anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory medications, the patient experienced significant improvement in his condition, the study said. Notably, the brain lesions regressed and his migraines improved.

“It is historically very unusual to encounter infected pork in the United States, and our case may have public health implications,” the researchers concluded.

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