PORK SCRATCHING Doctors get stomach-churning shock after a man who ate undercooked bacon turned up suffering migraines

 EATING undercooked bacon gave a man a pig tapeworm that caused agonising migraines, scientists say.

The anonymous 52-year-old, who enjoyed scoffing “soft bacon” for most of his life, started getting headaches that got worse over four months and went to hospital in Florida.

A man contracted a pig tapeworm that gave him migraines after eating undercooked bacon
A man contracted a pig tapeworm that gave him migraines after eating undercooked baconCredit: American Journal of Case Reports
The problem is thought to have started with undercooked bacon.
The problem is thought to have started with undercooked bacon.Credit: Getty Images - Getty

Scans revealed fluid-filled sacs on his brain and doctors diagnosed him with neurocysticercosis, a condition that was caused by Taenia solium larvae.

They were left puzzled when he told them he had not travelled to any high risk areas and lived in a modern, clean home with his wife and cat.

The medics suggested the “very rare” case should serve as a warning for people to make sure they cook their breakfasts properly.

Dr Eamonn Byrnes, of Orlando Regional Medical Centre, said: “It is very rare for patients to contract neurocysticercosis outside of classic exposures or travel.“Such cases in the United States were thought to be nonexistent. 

“Undercooked pork consumption is a theoretical risk factor for neurocysticercosis via autoinoculation, as we suspected in this case. 

“It is historically very unusual to encounter infected pork in the United States, and our case may have public health implications.”

Neurocysticercosis is a type of cysticercosis, which is an infection caused by the tapeworm Taenia solium, that affects the brain or nerves.

It is usually spread by accidentally eating eggs of the worm found in the poo of other infected people or from infected pork.

The disease is more common in South America, Asia and Africa, in areas where there is poor sanitation and free-ranging pigs.

The man’s case, reported in the American Journal of Case Reports, was spotted after his migraines got worse over a few months.

He started feeling them more regularly, severely and at the back of his head, but did not suffer aura, seizures, numbness or weakness.

When CT scans revealed the cysts in his brain, doctors were initially concerned he had a genetic condition.

Further tests ruled this out and his neurosurgeon opted against performing an operation.


An infectious diseases expert performed further scans and he tested positive for cysticercosis.

He was given dexamethasone — a steroid medication often used to treat allergies — as well as albendazole, which is used to treat parasitic worms.

The lesions in his brain reduced in size and his headaches had improved at his last follow-up at the infectious disease clinic.

Dr Byrnes said: “This presentation is nonspecific and can easily be overlooked, especially if there is an underlying known neurological condition such as migraine. 

“This case illustrates that neurocysticercosis should be considered when an existing neuropathological condition displays a change in presentation or requires a change in therapeutic management, even without obvious risk factors.”

Last year in Australia surgeons removed an 8cm (3in) worm from the brain of a woman.

The worm was pulled from the damaged frontal lobe of the woman 64, who had for months suffered symptoms like stomach pain, coughs and night sweats, forgetfulness and depression.

The case was believed to be the first involving "larvae invasion and development in the human brain", researchers said in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal which reported the case.

The worm removed from a woman's brain in Australia
The worm removed from a woman's brain in AustraliaCredit: CANBERRA HEALTH

What is cysticercosis and how do you get it?

Cysticercosis is a parasitic tissue infection caused by larval cysts of the tapeworm Taenia solium.

These larval cysts infect brain, muscle, or other tissue, and are a major cause of adult onset seizures in most low-income countries.

A person gets cysticercosis by swallowing eggs found in the feces of a person who has an intestinal tapeworm.  

People living in the same household with someone who has a tapeworm have a much higher risk of getting cysticercosis than people who don’t.

Both the tapeworm infection, also known as taeniasis, and cysticercosis occur globally.

The highest rates of infection are found in areas of Latin America, Asia, and Africa that have poor sanitation and free-ranging pigs that have access to human feces.

Although uncommon, cysticercosis can occur in people who have never traveled outside of the United States. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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