Tapeworm larvae found in man’s brain after he complained of migraines

FILE - Brain scan images taken during a visit in 2015.

A man learned there were tapeworm larvae in his brain after complaining of severe migraines. 

The man, 52, admitted that he regularly ate undercooked bacon, which doctors believed made him more susceptible to a tapeworm infection, according to a report out of Florida published in the American Journal of Case Reports this month. 

Doctors learned that the man noticed a change in how often and how severe his migraines became over a span of four months, the report said. 

When he sought medical help, the patient said, apart from the regular migraines, he was not experiencing any other alarming side effects, such as numbness or seizures. 

Authors of the case report also noted that the patient had not recently traveled to any high-risk areas.

The patient told doctors that while he had not eaten any raw or street food in recent memory, he did say he had a habit of eating "lightly cooked, non-crispy" bacon for most of his life. 

After testing to ensure all of his vitals were normal, doctors performed an MRI and CT scan. The scan results revealed a cluster in the man’s brain, which turned out to be cysts created by the tapeworm larvae. 

The patient was treated with antiparasitic and anti-inflammatory medications and was instructed to follow up with an infectious disease clinic, according to the report. 

The lesions left in his brain due to the cysts began to regress and his headaches became less severe and not as frequent. 

While it is rare to encounter pork infected with tapeworm eggs due to rigorous health standards in the U.S., doctors feel this particular case is enough to remind health care providers not to discount the possibility of a tapeworm infection when a patient has sudden changes in migraines. 

RELATED: Neurosurgeon probing patient’s mystery symptoms plucks worm from woman’s brain in Australia

How humans get pork tapeworm (neurocysticercosis)

Humans contract neurocysticercosis, or pork tapeworm, by eating undercooked food, particularly pork, that has been contaminated by microscopic eggs. 

It can also be passed on from person to person if proper handwashing is not practiced. The infected person can contaminate their food with feces that contains the eggs. These eggs can then be eaten by another person and once inside the body, those eggs can hatch and find their way to the brain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The resulting larvae in the brain can cause the condition known as neurocysticercosis. 

If left untreated, neurocysticercosis can lead to epilepsy, seizures and sometimes death. 

There are an estimated 1,000 cases of neurocysticercosis in the U.S. every year, according to CDC data. 

The best way to avoid this rare disease is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after using the restroom, changing a diaper or before handling food. 

Cleaning food thoroughly is also strongly recommended. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.