Eating this common food can cause worms to invade your brain. Once they are consumed and enter your organism, they can move throughout your body — your eyes, your tissues, and most commonly your brain. It may sound like a horror movie, but all of this can actually happen and can have life-threatening consequences.
Dr. Effrossyni Gkrania-Klotsas said that while she and her team was examining the head of a British man in 2013 they found a type of tapeworm they’ve never before seen in the United Kingdom.
The team of doctors at Addenbrookes Hospital at Cambridge, some years before that, had a patient – a man who came to the hospital complaining of severe headaches. The same patient came back after a while for some tests, this time complaining of new symptoms. The patient said he had recently visited China, which along with Thailand, Japan and South Korea, has the most reported cases of this parasite known as Spirometra erinaceieuropaei.
The patient experienced seizures and weakness, along with the headaches, and all his symptoms were caused by the parasite. He was diagnosed with an infection sparganosis, a kind of a parasitic infection which is caused by tapeworm larvae plerocercoid diphyllobothroid. Upon diagnosis doctors had to be quick to remove the worm surgically, because there is no known drug to effectively treat the infection.
Taeniasis in humans is a parasitic infection caused by the tapeworm species Taenia saginata (beef tapeworm), Taenia solium (pork tapeworm), and Taenia asiatica (Asian tapeworm). Humans can become infected with these tapeworms by eating raw or undercooked beef (T. saginata) or pork (T. solium and T. asiatica).
There are different types of tapeworms but only 3 of them can infect the brain and according to medical experts the main reason for parasitic infections in humans is the pork tapeworm. Humans can get infected by this tapeworm in two ways:
- The first form of infection – is by consuming undercooked pork from infected pigs, resulting in taeniasis – an adult worm residing in the intestine.
- The second form of infections – is in the larval form, through contact with the feces of an infected human or pig, which can go further on infecting many tissues. It can result in a condition known as neurocysticercosis if the larval worm enters the nervous system, including the brain. This kind of infection can often cause epilepsy once inside the brain.
This type of infection is common in parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa but cases are being reported in Europe as well, as the global food distribution of cheap meat is increasing. Dr. Klotsas has already had three neurocysticercosis patients in their care in Cambridge.