Luis Ortiz, a California college student, was suddenly struck by a crippling headache and became very ill. His mother rushed him to the emergency room of a Napa hospital where neurosurgeon Soren Singel ran a brain scan. What he saw was terrifying.
A tapeworm larva was eating into Luis’s brain and unless something was done immediately he had only 30 minutes to live! Ortiz was rushed to emergency surgery where the still-wriggling parasite was extracted. Here is video of an interview that CBS News did with this fortunate survivor.
According to this report by the US centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) these larval cysts in the brain – neurocysticercosis – can develop after a person swallows microscopic eggs passed in the faeces of a person who has an intestinal pork tapeworm. They can also come from swimming in infested water.
The eggs hatch inside the body and the worms sometimes make their way to the brain. According to the CDC approximately 1,000 people end up in the hospital with these larvae. Few are such an extreme case as this Luis.
You can’t go through life worrying all the time about brain-eating worms, but clearly there are a few things we should pay attention to. Cook that pork! Be cautious where you swim. Try not to eat people’s faeces, especially people who eat raw pork!
We are glad that Luis survived this ordeal. What a terrifying experience! If you’ve had an amazing medical encounter, tell us.