Subject: Live tapeworm removed from California man's brain
From: Alex Kemp
Date: Friday, 6 November 2015 06:22:31 +0000
To: Oliver Kemp, Micaela Kemp, Liisa Kemp, Davin Kemp

It seems to be the week for gross-out news reports... Now for another beauty pageant following yesterday’s (5 Nov) report on a Tapeworm Tumour:-

Electron scan of the Intestinal Pork Tapeworm (credit: Science Photo Library)

Luis Ortiz--a final-year student at Sacramento State University, USA--was admitted to a hospital in Napa with what he called the worst headache of his life.

Neurosurgeon Soren Singel performed a brain-scan & discovered that the larva of a tapeworm was lodged in Luis’ brain. The larva had grown a cyst, and a baby tapeworm was developing inside that cyst. Meanwhile, the cyst was cutting off circulation to the rest of his brain. Soren informed Luis that he had 30 minutes to live. Some minutes later the doctor pulled it out of his brain & said “it’s still wriggling”.

You think that that is bad? It’s about to get worse...

Larval cysts in the brain are called “neurocysticercosis”, and the CDC reckons that about 1,000 folks each year need to have such a cyst removed from their brain. The epidemiology is as follows:-

  1. An organism (in this case a pig) has a tapeworm that is busily releasing eggs.
  2. The eggs pass out within the faeces (poo) of the pig; the eggs are microscopic, and not visible to the naked eye.
  3. Another organism (in this case, Luis Ortiz) can ingest the egg(s) via poorly-cooked, or contaminated, pork, but may also pick it up via something that got contaminated by the pig poo (perhaps some grass).
  4. The eggs hatch.
  5. In this case, the worm makes it’s way NOT to it’s natural home (the small intestine, also called the ‘gut’) but rather, perhaps, passes through the digestive wall or, by whatever method, ends up finding a home in the brain.


Luis had his surgery in August 2015; all that remains now is a small red line on his forehead, marking the spot where the cyst was removed. He is pleased that he did not leave it too long before going to the surgeon, and is hoping to commence his final year some time soon.

Alex Kemp