Science and Tech


Man's undercooked bacon habit likely led to migraine-causing tapeworm

A rare case of cysticercosis developed in a man whose habit of eating undercooked bacon likely caused tapeworms.
A plate of bacon sits on a kitchen table.
Posted at 12:13 PM, Mar 13, 2024

A 52-year-old man reported experiencing worsening headaches for over four months with no explanation. Researchers said the migraines were the result of tapeworms being caused by a man's consumption of undercooked bacon.

For months, doctors tried to diagnose what exactly was causing these headaches. In a case report published by Florida health officials in the American Journal of Case Reports, the man stated his migraines occurred almost weekly, becoming increasingly severe, and no longer were responsive to therapy. 

The report said he denied any new focal neurological deficits, changes in seizures, numbness, weakness, facial asymmetry, dysarthria or dysphagia. 

He also denied visiting high-risk travel areas with his only notable travel history being on a cruise to the Bahamas years prior. The report said that he lived at home with his wife and cat in a modern home and claimed to consume a regular diet, but admitted to a habit of eating lightly cooked, non-crispy bacon for most of his life.

It turns out that eating undercooked bacon was the likely culprit. 

Doctors diagnosed him with cysticercosis, which is a condition caused by an infection from a pork tapeworm. He was then treated with antiparasitic and anti-inflammatory medications. 

The report did not say if or when the man's symptoms subsided after treatment. 

"It is very rare for patients to contract neurocysticercosis outside of classic exposures or travel, and such cases in the United States were thought to be nonexistent," the report says. "It is historically very unusual to encounter infected pork in the United States, and our case may have public health implications."

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cysticercosis can sometimes cause neurocysticercosis, which can lead to seizures. 

"Humans get the tapeworm infection after eating raw or undercooked pork contaminated with cysts of T. solium. When swallowed the cysts pass through the stomach and attach to the lining of the small intestine. In the small intestine the cysts develop into adult tapeworms over about two months," the CDC said.