Tapeworms, good for your body? - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Tapeworms, good for your body?

(Source: Ivanhoe Newswire) (Source: Ivanhoe Newswire)

LOS ANGELES (Ivanhoe Newswire/Newswire) -- It sounds like a bad horror movie: losing control of your body. When it happened to one man, doctors thought a brain tumor was to blame. But turns out, the culprits were tapeworms. And that was good news and it happens more often than you think.

In 2012, the nightmare erupted. Rigo Medrano lost his motor skills. Then he had a violent seizure, followed by emergency surgery.

Garni Barkhoudarian, MD, Neurosurgeon at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica feared the worst.

“The MRI looked like he had a malignant brain tumor. That’s what the radiologist read it as,” Dr. Barkhoudarian explains.

Given that diagnosis – hearing the mass was, in fact, a nest of tapeworm eggs– was actually good news. Medrano figures he got them from eating contaminated pork in Mexico. The eggs migrated to his brain, where they started to die off.

Dr. Barkhoudarian says, “That actually can cause seizures or it can cause more neurological deficits like numbness or tingling or weakness in the arms or legs, vision loss, double vision, things like that.”

Once the tapeworms were removed, Medrano took anti-seizure medication for more than a year and is now free of seizures and ticks.

“As bad as it was, it was something that was easily fixed with removal of the cyst and the worm, and some medication and therapy. It was definitely a best case scenario,” says Medrano.

Cases like his happen mostly in unsanitary areas of Latin America, Asia and Africa, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are more than 1,000 cases of tapeworms in the brain every year in the U.S. If a food handler has tapeworms in their stomach, they can shed the eggs in their feces and contaminate food if they don’t wash their hands.

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