Tapeworm eggs found in brain of man with penchant for 'undercooked' bacon

 (American Journal of Case Reports)
(American Journal of Case Reports)

A man in the US who was suffering severe migraines was found to have tapeworms growing in his brain after eating undercooked bacon.

The 52-year-old visited hospital after migraines, which he had long suffered, starting becoming severe and occurring on an almost weekly basis.

When questioned by medics the man “admitted to a habit of eating lightly cooked, non-crispy bacon for most of his life”, records an article published in the American Journal of Case Reports.

Medics carried out a CT scan which revealed “numerous cystic foci” deep inside his brain.

The man was urgently admitted to the hospital and, following an MRI and antiobody tests, he was diagnosed with neurocysticercosis - a parasitic infection of the brain.

The condition is caused by larval cysts of the pork tapeworm - sacs containing the immature stage of the parasite.

The cysts can infect various parts of the body causing a condition known as cysticercosis. When they infect the brain, such as in the US patient’s case, the condition is known as neurocysticercosis - and can be fatal.

Cysticercosis cannot be contracted by eating undercooked pork, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP).

“Eating undercooked pork can result in intestinal tapeworm if the pork contains larval cysts,” it adds.

But cysticercosis is contracted by swallowing eggs found in the faeces of someone with an intestinal tapeworm.

The US patient was given medication, and after 14 days in hospital he was discharged, with a “regression” in brain lesions and an improvement in his headaches.

“Our patient’s lifelong preference for soft bacon may have led to instances of undercooked bacon consumption,” medics wrote in the journal report.

“But this would have caused him to develop taeniasis, an intestinal tapeworm, and not cysticercosis.”

Medics speculated that given the man’s “predilection for undercooked pork” led him to contracted a pork tapeworm, before contracting cysticercosis by ingesting tapeworm eggs through “improper handwashing”.

“It is very rare for patients to contract neurocysticercosis outside of classic exposures or travel, and such cases in the United States were thought to be nonexistent,” said the report’s authors.

Experts say tapeworm and cysticercosis infections are most prevalent in parts of Latin America, Asia, and Africa with poor sanitation and where pigs are allowed to roam freely.

The report authors said it is “very unusual” to encouter infected pork in the US, adding that the findings “may have public health implications”.