parasitic tapeworm

Man came into the hospital with seizures. Doctors found a tapeworm in his brain.

A strange occurrence happened to a man in Boston that has now become a case study for doctors everywhere. This man came into the emergency room of Massachusetts General Hospital after he woke up seizing and speaking gibberish. The doctors found a dead tapeworm in his brain causing the sudden attacks. This is what we know. (1)

Man Has Seizures From A Dead Tapeworm Found Inside His Brain

A woman called 9-1-1 in Boston earlier this year when her husband suddenly fell out of the bed seizing in the middle of the night. He was speaking gibberish and unable to communicate. The 38-year-old was completely disoriented, his eyes were stuck in an upward position, and he could not respond to any commands. This was strange, considering he had no existing conditions to cause seizures and no previous medical history to suggest anything. That’s when the doctors found the dead tapeworm inside his brain causing all the trouble. (2)

After giving him medications to control the seizures, the doctors then ran a series of tests on him. Scans revealed swelling in his brain and three lesions. These are typical signs of a parasitic infection called neurocysticercosis. The doctors concluded that about 20 years prior, this man had unknowingly ingested a tapeworm. This tapeworm left larval cysts which traveled to his head and embedded themselves into parts of his brain.

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What Is Neurocysticercosis?

This parasitic infection is usually caused by eating undercooked pork or living in extremely unsanitary conditions. This is why normally it is seen most commonly in rural and underdeveloped areas. That being said, it can be passed down simply through poor hygiene. For example, if someone has a tapeworm and doesn’t properly wash their hands after using the bathroom, they can unintentionally pass it on in the form of microscopic eggs to someone else. Once the eggs are in the body, they hatch and become larvae. These larvae then travel to the brain.

Tapeworms first make their way through the muscles and tissues. Next, they infect the central nervous system. They usually die in about five to 10 years, however, the dead parasites can still cause a large amount of inflammation throughout the body. This then leads to headaches, soreness, and even seizures. 

Read: Why Are Worms Coming Out of Strawberries in This Viral Video? An Expert Explains

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An Unusual But Not Unheard Of Case

This was the case for the Boston man who showed up seizing in the hospital emergency room. The doctors found the dead tapeworms dead and calcified. Despite that, two decades later, they were still affecting him. The man immigrated to Boston from a rural area of Guatemala more than twenty years ago. His doctors believe this is likely where he picked up the tapeworm.

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How To Prevent Tapeworm Infections

Tapeworm infections can be caused by ingesting food and water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or larvae. Usually, this means this food or water is contaminated with feces. You can also contract an infection by consuming undercooked meat, especially pork. Things like poor hygiene, exposure to livestock, traveling to developing countries, eating raw or undercooked meat, and living in places with an endemic tapeworm issue. (3)

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Preventing a tapeworm infection is relatively simple. Follow these following steps and you will be unlikely to have a problem with tapeworms:

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  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the washroom. This is especially important if you are going to be eating or handling food.
  • If you are traveling in places known to have tapeworms, do not drink the water. Wash or cook all of your fruits and vegetables in clean, safe water. If you are unsure about the water, boil it for at least one minute and allow it to cool before using it.
  • Always properly dispose of both livestock and human feces.
  • Thoroughly cook meat to kill any and all tapeworms, eggs, and larvae.
  • Freeze meat thoroughly to kill eggs and larvae
  • Avoid eating undercooked meat
  • Always treat pets who have tapeworms.

Follow these steps and you likely will never have an issue with tapeworms.

Keep Reading: What Really Happens When A House Fly Lands On Your Food

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Sources

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  1. Case 34-2021: A 38-Year-Old Man with Altered Mental Status and New Onset of Seizures.” NEJM. Andrew J. Cole, M.D., et al. November 11, 2021
  2. Washington Post
  3. Tapeworm infection.” Mayo Clinic
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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