Brain-Eating Pork Tapeworm Found Living in Florida Man’s Eye

A Florida man is recovering after surgery to remove a pork tapeworm from his eye. ( Source: WFTS Television, Tampa, Florida. )

It sounds almost too sci-fi to be real, but yes, there really are brain-eating parasites. It’s not a theme to an upcoming movie, but real life for a Florida man.

According to WFTS in Tampa, Fl., Sam Cordero had a tapeworm living in the vitreous chamber of his eye—the fluid behind the eye lens, between the cornea. He believed he contracted the worm after eating undercooked pork during the holidays.

He says he could see a black dot in his left eye, moving left to right.

Dr. Don Perez of the Perez Eye Center said Cordero had only a small window of time for the worm to be surgically removed to keep his 20/20 vision.

Watch the video report to see the worm in action. (WFTS)

Taenia Solium, commonly called a pork tapeworm, passes to humans from consuming raw pork or through contact with fecal matter. Properly cooked pork and good hygiene when handling food kills the parasite. This is the second case Perez has ever treated, and one of only about 20 cases reported worldwide.

“What is scary, it gravitates toward the brain,” Perez told WFTS. If it reached the brain, the worm would eat it, making tiny holes, like Swiss Cheese, causing seizures and ultimately death.

The parasite needs to be removed before it dies, or the inflammation could cause blindness.

Perez said proper diagnosis to save a patient’s life is key. Adult tapeworms may reside in the small bowel for years. They reach 2 to 7 mm in length and produce up to 1000 proglottids; each contains about 50,000 eggs.

The worm removed from Cordero’s eye was fertilized and 3mm long.