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13th Mar 2024

Man discovers headaches caused by parasite in his brain from not cooking crispy bacon

Charlie Herbert

A man who ended up in hospital with awful migraines was told they were caused by a parasite in his brain, which researchers believe entered his body because he was eating undercooked bacon.

The anonymous 52-year-old from the US went to the doctors after his usual migraines became gradually worse over four months.

The migraines had become more frequent, severe and unresponsive to medication, according to a study in the American Journal of Case Reports.

He ended up being admitted to hospital, where CT scans revealed several fluid-filled sacs in the brain, called cystic foci.

The study said that cysticercosis cyst antibody tests returned positive, and the man was diagnosed with neurocysticercosis. This is a form of the parasitic tissue infection caused by larval cysts of the pork tapeworm found in the brain, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.

The CDC explains that cysticercosis is usually contracted after a person ingests larval cysts from infected faeces, typically caused by lack of handwashing.

The disease is most commonly found in the poorer, developing countries due to poor sanitation, but the man had not recently travelled to any high-risk areas.

Symptoms of neurocysticercosis included headaches and seizures

Doctors realised the only connection to neurocysticercosis that the patient had was his “habit of eating lightly cooked, non-crispy bacon most of his life.”

The report concluded: “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.”

The man ended up being successfully treated with anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory medication.

The study could have significant implications, as it had previously been deemed “very rare” patients in the US to contract neurocysticercosis.

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

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