Should aloof I be alarmed about worms eating my mind? Surroundings the parable straight on the hazards of ‘mind worms’

Can I web a “mind worm” from eating undercooked meat?

There’s minute I gather more gruesome than the foundation of something living and crawling round internal me. In accordance with the gathering of sci-fi movies fascinating parasites, from Alien to The Host, I’m not the single one with this dread. Lucky for most of us living in the U.S., these forms of migratory worms preserve mainly in the realm of science fiction. We could presumably possibly dread about ticks after we trip mountain hiking, or lice when our adolescents advance dwelling from college and scratch their heads, nonetheless we don’t on occasion dread about worm eggs in our drinking water or raw meals. Right here isn’t always actual in sure low- and heart-earnings nations where parasites stay an ongoing threat to wellness.

As a minute one amongst missionaries, I’ve had my excellent share of ride with parasites. There wasn’t a time as soon as I or somebody I knew wasn’t facing a parasite — an intestinal worm, sand mite, tapeworm — you title it. 

I moved support to the states in heart college, and, admire most People, I haven’t alarmed or notion great about creepy crawlies in my physique, till now.  

That brings us to just U.S. presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  “A worm… got into my mind and ate a portion of it after which died.” Uh, what? That’s a thing that will presumably possibly occur? 

In recent days, there modified into a media frenzy following news that RFK Jr. at one time suffered a “mind worm” that left some roughly “shadow” on an imaging peep of his mind.

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Neurocysticercosis is precipitated by the central worried machine an infection with the pork tapeworm Taenia solium. The diagnosis of neurocysticercosis most ceaselessly requires MRI or CT mind scans.

In step with a deposition from 12 years previously and currently reported on by The New York Cases, Kennedy’s mind modified into breached by a parasite. He acknowledged that a physician knowledgeable him of an anomaly on his mind scan, attributing it to a worm that had infiltrated his mind, consumed a portion, after which perished.

For the reason that file, Kennedy’s campaign has acknowledged he reduced in dimension the parasite throughout his travels all over Africa, South The United States and Asia whereas advocating for environmental causes. They are saying that the shy away modified into resolved bigger than a decade previously and that Kennedy stays sturdy, bodily and mentally. The clinical data modified into revealed by Kennedy throughout divorce proceedings along with his 2d wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy, as reported by The Cases. The deposition unfolded amid a correct form dispute over Kennedy’s diminished earning capability as a result of cognitive difficulties.

In step with The Cases file, Kennedy acknowledged he did not know which invent of parasite affected him. The Cases file acknowledged that it likely came from the larvae of a tapeworm on occasion mutter in pork. The Centers for Disease Administration and Prevention states that folks can harbor grownup pork tapeworms of their intestine after eating raw or undercooked pork containing infective cysticerci.

In accordance with the media coverage it’d be straightforward to advance away with the notion that mind worms are a trouble whenever we eat pork. As any bacon fan could possibly be, I modified into concerned. So I reached out to an knowledgeable.

Claire Panosian Dunavan,


UCLA School of Medication

Division of Infectious Diseases

UCLA tropical medication knowledgeable Claire Panosian Dunavan, MD, DTM&H in London, is a number one resolve in global well being and infectious ailments. Her tutorial recede spans Stanford College, Northwestern Scientific School, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medication, and UCLA School of Medication, where she is for the time being a professor of medication and infectious ailments. A world well being recommend, she co-based UCLA’s Program in World Neatly being and served as President of the American Society of Tropical Medication and Hygiene. Her writing for colleagues and lay readers alike has addressed parasitic infections, malaria and global well being policy.

Dr. Panosian’s 2d occupation as a clinical journalist has additionally integrated filmmaking; her recent clinical documentary entitled “Unintentional Host—The Story of Rat Lungworm Disease” is for the time being airing on PBS stations round the nation and streaming on PBS Passport.

I reached out to Dr. Panosian, to positive up my confusion and relief me better perceive what a “mind worm” is and how it will get into the physique.

From the knowledgeable herself

Because no one has made his clinical records public, specialists can’t negate for positive, nonetheless in step with statements by Kennedy himself, it does appear likely RFK as soon as had larval Taenia solium AKA pork tapeworm in his mind — a situation formally ceaselessly known as neurocysticercosis (NCC).

For the reason that data provided to media is already so sketchy, there’s no point in speculating on how this “mind worm” could presumably possibly have affected RFK clinically. However one thing is positive. Elevating the topic of NCC does equal a “teachable 2d” for People to be taught more a pair of a must have global foodborne and waterborne parasite that is basically unappreciated in the U.S. and causes a mighty deal of global suffering.


1)  Folk tag not contract NCC by eating undercooked pork nonetheless by ingesting little, invisible eggs passed in the stool of humans who harbor grownup pork tapeworms of their GI tract. After these eggs enter the atmosphere — most ceaselessly as a result of unhappy sanitation and hygiene — they are able to survive for quite a whereas and contaminate recent meals and water. After ingestion, either by a human or a pig, the little tapeworm eggs then develop into larvae that on the complete stay inert for years whereas persevering with to develop, especially in the human mind. Lastly, in the kill, the cysts in humans can leak or turn into infected or calcify. That’s when epileptic seizures and different neurologic symptoms on the complete fabricate. In the worst case drawl, the enlarging, infected cysts can block the passage of spinal fluid ultimately of the mind; plot chronic meningitis, visible disorders, and many others. Or in layman’s phrases: confusion, headaches, blindness, seizures — even loss of life. Does RFK have any chronic sequelae from a past bout of NCC or chronic abnormalities on his CT scan? In accordance with recent data, there’s no formula to know.

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Folk web the tapeworm an infection after eating raw or undercooked pork corrupt with cysts of Taenia solium.

 2) The larval cysts of pork tapeworm tag not “EAT” mind tissue, they merely make bigger and turn into infected and plot secondary results that will presumably even be quite symptomatic and tainted and require therapy.

 3) Sadly, cysticercosis is great from rare in many substances of the arena—especially farming areas in Latin The United States, Asia, and Africa where humans and pigs are in shut contact and sanitation is unhappy. It’s for the time being notion that NCC is the arena’s most stylish motive of grownup-onset epilepsy. Apart from as, WHO has identified NCC as a number one motive of loss of life from foodborne ailments.

4) Can we peep patients in the U.S. with neurocysticercosis? Yes, unnecessary to claim. I myself have viewed shut to 50 patients who presumably reduced in dimension their infections years to decades sooner than I met them whereas living in numerous substances of the arena. Prolonged previously, as soon as I worked as the Chief of Infectious Diseases at UCLA-Olive Leer Scientific Heart, a public sanatorium with many Spanish-talking patients positioned in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley, it modified into not an outlandish diagnosis; Dr. Glenn Mathisen, my UCLA colleague and successor at Olive Leer estimates that the sanatorium aloof diagnoses a minimal of a dozen NCC patients per twelve months.

Implication for meals security in the U.S. and folks that recede

There are a collection of parasites of humans — both single celled protozoa and multi-celled helminthic parasites — that will presumably possibly enter humans by corrupt meals, water, and hand to mouth contact. Foodborne parasites most ceaselessly have recent, even recent existence cycles fascinating diverse intermediate hosts. However stylish hygiene, water techniques, agricultural practices, and actual meals prep have decreased most foodborne parasites in the U.S.  

Apart from as, since NCC isn’t bought domestically, there’s no particular regulatory protocol as some distance as I know (even supposing I’m an knowledgeable on foodborne infections, I’m not an knowledgeable on meals legislation in identical previous or particular regulations connected to the pork industry). In low and heart-earnings nations, on different hand, makes an try at reducing the human burden of neurocysticercosis largely heart on sanitation and hygiene along with some recent interventions that encompass vaccinating pigs in opposition to pork tapeworm with a vaccine known as Cysvax (first registered on the market in India in 2016) and mass drug therapy of pigs and humans in extremely affected communities.

Folk that recede to excessive-trouble locations can must aloof steer positive of eating potentially corrupt meals and note upright hand hygiene. Moreover, eating well-cooked meals and drinking beforehand boiled water is always a mercurial-witted precaution when visiting rustic, abroad settings.  

Extra data on cysticercosis could presumably even be mutter in the CDC’s Yellow E book 2024.

My last solutions

RFK Jr.’s revelation of a past discover with a “mind worm” has sparked understandable shy away and curiosity. However, amidst speculation and sensationalism, Dr. Panosian’s perception clarifies predictable misconceptions about neurocysticercosis, especially referring to its mode of transmission. And whereas it’s comforting to know that instances of NCC are rare in the United States, it stays a well-known global well being shy away, critically in areas with insufficient sanitation and hygiene practices. 

As the discourse continues, I’m hoping this consideration on “mind worms” will lead to a bigger thought of foodborne and waterborne parasites, more compare and withhold a watch on functions intended to restrict pork tapeworms’ unfold and clinical fracture, and foster a safer and more healthy global team.

Thanks, Dr. Panosian!

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