A Florida man recently had a brain-eating parasitic pork tapeworm removed from his eyeball that threatened to turn him blind.
Sam Cordero initially thought he was seeing a black dot moving from left to right, until he realized the dot was actually a pork tapeworm that had made its home in his left eye.
According to Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, “Taenia solium infection (taeniasis) is an intestinal infection with adult tapeworms that follows ingestion of contaminated pork.”
While a tapeworm might find its way into a human’s body when one consumes raw pork or comes in contact with contaminated human feces, it seldom travels through a person’s intestines, into one’s bloodstream and embed itself in one’s brain or eye ball.
However, in Cordero’s case — which is one of the 20 recorded cases of tapeworms reaching human eyes in the world — the insect settled down in his eye’s vitreous chamber, which is a fluid filled area behind Cordero’s lens and cornea.
“It came through the artery to vein circulation and it grew in here, and you see it right there. There’s nothing that looks like this that’s not this,” Dr. Don Perez with Tampa General Hospital said, NBC 2reported.
Perez added the scariest aspect of the infection was the fact that it had the potential of gravitating toward the brain. If the worm reached the brain, it could eat through it to the point where the central nervous system would start to resemble Swiss cheese.
“If he was in the brain he would present seizures,” Perez said.
Cordero said he had no idea parasitic worms existed till he was diagnosed with one living inside his eye.
“I believe and suspect it came from undercooked pork we ordered around Christmas holidays and that’s how I believe I got it,” he said.
The Florida man added he did not have any issue with letting the worm live inside his eye if there was no possibility of it invading his brain or leaving him blind.
Cordero had to get the worm removed before it died inside his eye, Perez said. If it died inside the eye, the inflammation that followed, could cause him to go blind. The surgery to remove the worm from Cordero’s eyes was no small feat.
According to CBS Miami, Perez, who performed the surgery, said: “You have to tickle it from one side and have the cutter ready, so when to shoot into the light. So I went into the cutter from the light you can actually aspirate and kill it.”
When the doctor took out three millimeters of the worm from his eye, it was found to be fertilized with tens of thousands of eggs. If the worm had lived any longer and released its larvae into his eye, some of them would have found their way into Cordero’s brain.
“Cysticercosis is usually asymptomatic unless larvae invade the CNS, resulting in neurocysticercosis, which can cause seizures and various other neurologic signs,” the Merck Manual read.
According to Perez, 70 percent of epilepsy cases are caused by the pork tapeworm, although most of them are not traced back to the insect. There are no reported cases of tapeworms in Muslim countries, where people do not consume pork.