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Pork Tapeworms on the Brain

Neurocysticercosis, infection with pork tapeworm larvae brain parasites, is an increasingly serious public health problem in the United States, potentially causing headaches, dizziness, seizures, other neurological disorders and sudden death.

September 4, 2011 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to DLC, the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Dr. E. Ross, Dr. M. Gupta, Dr DK Pal, Dr F. Gaillard, and Dr. R. Prasad


. The most  common cause of adult-onset epilepsy in the world is called neurocysticercosis, which  literally means, pork tapeworms curled up inside your brain.

A  review last year out of the Mayo clinic describes the problem.  Cysticerci, meaning the larvae, create cavities in the human brain and other body tissue where their tiny bodies grow sometimes into tapeworms 2 to 7 meters in length and can live up to 25 years in the human body. 7 meters means 23 feet long.

On MRI,  so-called wormholes appear.

On CT scan, there can be so many in the brain at one time, it can appear  similar to a starry sky.

 Each star is a fluid filled cyst with the beginning of a living, growing tapeworm inside.

 This is what they look like on autopsy.

 This is what their face looks like. They have these rings of hooks to grab onto your brain tissue.

Earlier this year a  review was published by the CDC on the “public health implications of cysticercosis acquired in the United States.  “Pork tapeworms on the brain has emerged as a cause of severe neurologic disease in the United States "

 Even after pork tapeworm larvae infect your brain, some people remain asymptomativ their entire lives, while others can go for years without symptoms and then “suddenly become very ill with seizures, headaches and other focal neurological deficits as the larvae multiply within the nervous system and other rissues and can cause sudden death just due to the pressure buildup in the brain.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

This continues the brain theme from Thursday's Avoiding Cholesterol is a No Brainer. Tomorrow's video will highlight how even those who abstain from pork may be at risk (i.e. if Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn can get pork tapeworms, anyone can get pork tapeworms).

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: the first month and Contagion: bad timing for CDC report of new swine flu strain.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    This continues the brain theme from Thursday’s Avoiding Cholesterol is a No Brainer. Tomorrow’s video will highlight how even those who abstain from pork may be at risk (i.e. if Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn can get pork tapeworms, anyone can get pork tapeworms).

  • Elaine Waters

    So you tell us about it but not how to get rid of them!!

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Elaine: All you need is Dr. Greger’s Patented Worm-Away® for 3 easy installments of $19.95.

      Just kidding! :)

      I will address medical and surgical options in tomorrow’s video. Sorry I’m keeping you in suspense! I’ve been told by my web guru friends that I should never make a video longer than 2 minutes because people evidently won’t watch it? So that’s why sometimes I split a single topic into multiple videos.

      Of course the best answer to your question is by not getting it in the first place. 28 grams of prevention is worth 0.45 kilograms of cure :) More on this tomorrow–thank you so much for tuning in. Watch more videos on foodborne parasites here.

      • JJ

        re: “…I should never make a video longer than 2 minutes because people evidently won’t watch it?”

        That’s just silly!! I forwarded one of the longer videos (I think it was 5 minutes) to a friend and she watched it without it being an issue. Your videos are so fascinating that people get hooked quickly. You may have to hook people very quickly, but after that, the length of the video is irrelevant. Well, maybe 1 hour is too long for the web…

        Please don’t skimp on information based on the 2 minute advice. If you make people have to click onto several different pages to watch multiple videos on the same topic, that is going to be much more of a detriment to getting the information out there than having a single longer video.

        That’s my 2 cents. No scientific studies to back it up though. :-)

        • Michael Greger M.D.

          I found mention of this “study” which suggests 90 seconds–yikes!

  • ladeevee

    I’m with you, Elaine. Tell us now how to get rid of them, please.

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Thank you for your question ladeevee–please see my response to Elaine above.

  • ladeevee

    Please tell us what are other potential sources for the tapeworms?

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      I believe the three most common tapeworms are from pork (Taenia solium), fish (Diphyllobothrium species), and beef (Taenia saginata).

  • Peter Heeks

    Shake your head vigorously for several minutes 1-2 times a day :-D

  • trinex3

    you have a computer… research this condition and educate yourself on how to eliminate this condition

    start here:

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      There is a 2010 update but unfortunately it’s not free (open access).

  • sylvia

    Tapeworms happen only when the meat is not well cooked or is there still a risk even well cooked?

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      There are two primary methods of transmission, sylvia: eating the tapeworm eggs in undercooked meat or exposure to an infected person’s fecal matter (one of the reasons we should all wash our hands after using the restroom!). You don’t want to know how well food service workers wash their hands.

  • tara

    The other white meat indeed!

  • Scott

    Wow, this is incredible scary! Is there any evidence that eating a vegetarian diet can inhibit the growth of these tapeworms?

    Thanks for this website! It is a huge helpful daily reminder to kept on track with the vegetarian lifestyle!

  • Eduardo Prada

    A question: how to get cysticercosis? From vegetables that received pork wast OR eating pork meat?

  • Southlander

    I’m rather confused – happens more often lately – but I thought that (1) pork tapeworms, for the most part were gone from our food supply and (2) tapeworms lived in the stomach rather than in the brain. :-))

  • Elley77

    I quit eating pork years ago when I found how nasty it truly is. I still ate beef chicken and eggs. Now im more into the vegetarian life style. but after watching this I don’t think I want to eat at food places any more. I don’t want worms in my brain yuck

  • Malin Bratvold Amsrud

    I am a 26 year old woman from Norway.
    you please give me some advice on how to proceed in testing for
    Neurocysticercosis, and also treating it. Can it come from other sources
    as well?

    I suffer from the symptoms you mentioned in an article I read.
    I also have MCS and severe chronic fatigue. Could this all be related?

    Hoping for your very soon reply

    Kind Regards
    Malin B.A.