An otherwise healthy man discovered that tapeworms in his brain were the cause of his unexplained seizures.
According to a new case study published in The New England Journal, the man’s wife awoke one night to find him on the floor, shaking and speaking incoherently. He was rushed to the hospital for a seizure, where doctors found that he was unresponsive to questions and involuntarily gazing at the ceiling.
Doctors concluded that the seizures, disorientation, and overall “strange” behavior were caused by tapeworms that had been living in his brain undetected.
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The man, 38, had no prior history of illness or drug use, nor was he taking any medication. Twenty years earlier, however, the man had emigrated from a rural area in Guatemala, where parasite-related illness is extremely common.
Tapeworms live in undercooked meat and can be easily passed from person to person. An infected person can carry parasite eggs in their stool, and can be spread to surfaces and food if hands are not thoroughly washed.
Tapeworms are widely known to cause extreme weight loss, but they can also spread throughout the body and enter the brain via the bloodstream.
According to the CDC, tapeworms can be prevented by making sure that meat is cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, usually by using a food thermometer. The CDC also suggests thoroughly washing your hands, plates, and utensils after they’ve come into contact with raw meat.