If you thought that the fact humans can get parasitic tapeworms in their stomach was bad, I've got a story for you that is so much worse. According to Live Science, a Florida man found thousands of brain-eating tapeworm eggs in his eye — along with an actual tapeworm. Officially freaked out? That's not even the worst part of this story. According to the man of the hour who found the tapeworm eggs in his eye, they may have been there because of this super common meal that most people order every day.
"I believe and suspect it came from undercooked pork we ordered around Christmas holidays and that’s how I believe I got it," tapeworm eye victim Sam Cordero told ABC News affiliate WFTS. "I see a little black dot and it’s only on the left eye. I see something moving from left to right. When the sun comes out it bothers me a lot." What makes this tale of terror even more disturbing is that Cordero's eye-worm infestation is the second report in two weeks. An Oregon also woman found 14 worms hanging out in her eye after she went to the doctor for eye irritation.
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene published a report that revealed that parasitic worms being found in the eyes were first reported in the U.S. about 20 years ago, but they're pretty rare. The scariest thing about Cordero's eye worms is that they are classified as brain-eating tapeworms: "In some extremely rare cases the worm will travel through your intestines, into your bloodstream and embed itself in your brain or eye ball," WFTS reported.
Dr. Don Perez, who treated Cordero, noted that it's only the second case of eye tapeworm that's he's diagnosed, and only 20 cases have been reported worldwide since eye-tapeworm tracking began. If you're not already sufficiently freaked out, here's another fun fact about them: turns out if doctors don't remove the creepy crawlers before they die, you can go blind and experience seizures from the worm making Swiss-cheese like holes in your brain matter, WFTS explained.
If there was ever a reason to make sure your pork was cooked thoroughly, this is it. Because, the worms can travel to your brain even if they don't stop for a layover in your eye. What's more, the Center's for Disease Control noted that most people infected with tapeworms experience no symptoms. And, you may even want to reconsider ordering that rare steak, especially when traveling abroad. Even though the chef might shame you for ordering a well-done steak, a little disdain from the cook is worth it to avoid getting a tapeworm in your eye.
"Infections with T. saginata [tapeworm] occur wherever contaminated raw beef is eaten, particularly in Eastern Europe, Russia, Eastern Africa, and Latin America," the CDC reported. "Taeniasis due to T. saginata is rare in the United States, except in places where cattle and people are concentrated and sanitation is poor, such as around feed lots when cattle can be exposed to human feces." Once you're infected, these devil worms reproduce at an alarming rate. Live Science noted that Dr. Perez removed a live tapeworm from Cordero's eye along with tens of thousands of eggs.
Even though Cordero is now tapeworm free and suffered no permanent eye damage, infected people are likely to pass it on to those they are in close contact with, Medical Daily explained. "People living with someone else who has the typical tapeworm infection, called taeniasis, are obviously much more likely to catch cysticercosis [brain or muscle infection from tapeworms] — often from eating food [that was] contaminated."
What's the lesson here? Cook your freakin' meat, and for the love of god, wash your hands properly. If you catch a tapeworm, WFTS reported that they can live in your bowels for years and produce more than 1,000 sexually mature friends who can lay up to 50,000 eggs. So, if you eat undercooked meat on the regular, and you start seeing spots, get to the doctor ASAP. Because, erring on the side of safety is better than suffering tapeworm eye and Swiss-cheese brain.
Now, please excuse me while I furiously examine my eye with a magnifying glass.