While we often association tapeworms with the digestive tract a new study has found that they often live in our brains and the number of infections is higher than doctors originally estimated. Tapeworms in the brain are dangerous because if left untreated they can cause significant brain damage.
In an interview with Discover Magazine Dr. Theodore Nash of the National Institute of Healthy in Maryland noted:
“Nobody knows exactly how many people there are with it [neurocysticercosis] in the United States. Minimally there are 5 million cases of epilepsy from neurocysticercosis.”
Cysticerocosis is an infection of bodily tissue after exposure to the pork tapeworm through contaminated food or water. It is typically the eggs of the tapeworm that movie to the brain, after hatching they can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting and even an altered mental state.
Nash’s research has also found that if a cyst is created by a tapeworm it “may push against a region of the brain and disrupt its function” which in turn could lead to a brain hernia, coma or death.
The study found that in Latin America the issue is compounded with 11 million to 29 million people suffering from brain based tapeworms.
Researchers warn potential tapeworm sufferers of the possibilities surrounding the condition but they also note that over the years we have become far better at treating tapeworms and preventing the disease from spreading in the first place.
Regardless of the treatments now available doctors still remind pork eaters to thoroughly cook their port products before consuming them to avoid tapeworm infection of the digestive tract and possibly the brain.