Totally nasty: Eating pork could give you brain tapeworms! »
This is your brain on pork! Specifically, this is “A human brain overrun with cysts from Taenia solium, a tapeworm that normally inhabits the muscles of pigs.” How do pig-muscle parasites get into human brains? Carl Zimmer at Discover breaks it down: When humans eat undercooked meat from a pig that was infected with the tapeworms, those tapeworm eggs will hatch in a human’s body, and the bloodstream will whisk the new little tapeworms around and up into the brain, where they thrive, forming cysts and giving the human a grody disease called neurocysticercosis.
Because the symptoms of neurocysticercosis are similar to lots of other diseases—it can cause epilepsy, for one thing—doctors like Theodore Nash of the National Institutes of Health say they can only estimate how many people are suffering from brain tapeworms. Dr. Nash tells Discover that he estimates between 1,500 and 2,000 people in the U.S. have them. And even grosser: “Nash and colleagues published a review of the scientific literature and concluded that somewhere between 11 million and 29 million people have neurocysticercosis in Latin America alone.”
Get over to Discover and read the whole article right now. It’s a totally treatable disease, though of course it’d be much easier not to accidentally become infected with parasites if you weren’t eating the animals that carry them. I really wanted to say this to my dining companions last night, who were eating copious amounts of pig, but not being a complete jerk, I refrained. Still, once you see that brain, it’s hard not to see it every time someone mentions the word “bacon.”
[photo by Theodore E. Nash, M.D., via Discover]