Culture

Brain-Eating Parasitic Tapeworm Embeds Itself in Florida Man's Eye

Pork tapeworm in Florida man's eye. Image via YouTube.

A brain-eating parasitic tapeworm set up shop in a Florida man’s eye after he ate undercooked pork during the Christmas holiday. Thankfully, it was surgically removed before it reproduced.

“I see like a little black dot and it’s only in the left eye,” Tampa resident Sam Cordero told ABC Action News. Cordero added that he could see the worm “moving from left to right.”

The parasite was swimming around in the fluid-filled vitreous chamber of Cordero’s eye between his lens and cornea.

Humans contract the tapeworm, “Taenia solium,” by eating raw pork or from contact with fecal matter. Dr. Don Perez of the Perez Eye Center said there have been only twenty documented cases where this tapeworm had traveled through a person’s stomach, into their bloodstream, and to their brain or eyeball.

But as rare as the condition is, Perez has seen it before. In 2012, he performed the same surgery to remove a tapeworm from another patient’s eye.

“There’s nothing that looks like this that isn’t this,” Perez declared.

After Cordero’s diagnosis, the race was on to surgically remove the critter from his eye before it died or — worse — had babies.

Perez explained that if it died in the eye, the inflammation could cause Cordero to go blind. If it didn’t die and instead laid some of its 50,000 eggs, the larvae could travel to his brain and turn it into Swiss cheese.

“If it’s in the brain he would present with seizures,” Perez noted.

“He’s got a window of opportunity where he can end up with 20/20 vision and parasite free,” Perez added. “What is scary, it gravitates toward the brain.”

Cordero said he didn’t know the pork tapeworm existed until he contracted it in his eye. He was worried about the worm going to his brain and dying in his eye, otherwise Cordero was calm about having a parasite living in his eye.

“I know I am in good hands and he treated it before,” Cordero said.

Perez quipped, “I’ve been hit with lightning because you seldom see this.”

Asked if he would ever eat pork again, Cordero replied, “I don’t think so. That’s one of the changes that I’m going to make in my life.”

Incredibly, this story wasn’t the first worm-in-the-eye horror story of the week.

It was also widely reported this week that an Oregon woman plucked 14 worms out of her eye after contracting a very rare parasitic infection spread by flies. Doctors believe Abby Beckley, 26, may be the first person to have been diagnosed with Thelazia gulosa – “a type of eye worm usually seen in cattle in the northern U.S. and southern Canada, but never before in humans.”