You probably will never eat raw, half-cooked or undercooked pork meat after watching this video about pork tapeworm especially since it can readily infect your brain.
Tapeworm has many forms, but from a public health perspective, there’s one in particular to watch out for.
“It’s mainly the pork tapeworm that’s the main brain one,” says Helena Helmby from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The pork species, known as Taenia Solium, can infect humans in two forms.
The first is by eating undercooked pork from infected pigs, resulting in taeniasis — an adult worm residing in the intestine.
The second, in the larval form, through contact with the feces of an infected pig or human, which can go on to infect many tissues. If the larval worm enters the nervous system, including the brain, it can result in a condition known as neurocysticercosis.
Infection of this kind can often cause epilepsy once inside the brain. Almost a third of epilepsy cases in countries where the disease is native are people who have previously had neurocysticercosis, according to the World Health Organization.
You could easily infect yourself
“Self-infection is common,” according to Helmby. Neurocysticercosis infection arises from poor sanitation and hygiene.
“You can actually infect yourself,” says Helmby, as poor hygiene, such as failing to wash your hands, could result in you eating the eggs of an adult worm living in your intestine.
As a result of its higher prevalence and due to increased international travel, the global distribution of pork tapeworms is widespread.
World Health Organization says the highest cases are recorded across Latin America, Africa and Asia – that’s included Malaysia.
How to treat pork tapeworms infection
Infections with pork tapeworms are common but treatable with antihelminthic drugs targeting the worm.
Until now, treatment for Spirometra has been surgical, but the recent genetic insight from Bennett’s team in Cambridge found that some drugs, such as praziqantil, which is used against schistosomiasis (snail fever), could have an effect.
Certain drugs used against cancer were also identified as potential treatments.