Doctor removes brain-eating tapeworm growing in man's eye

A meal of undercooked pork nearly cost one Florida man his vision after he contracted a brain-eating parasitic tapeworm that traveled to his eye.

Sam Cordero blamed his Christmas ham feast for the dangerous parasite Taenia solium, better known as a pork tapeworm, which can be passed to humans through consumption of raw pork or contact with fecal matter.

“I believe and suspect it came from undercooked pork we ordered around Christmas holidays and that’s how I believe I got it,” Cordero told ABC Action News. “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.”


Eye Worm

The doctor was able to remove the parasite from his eye, revealing a 3 mm tapeworm that was fertilized with thousands of eggs.  (Screen grab ABC)

If contracted, the parasite typically will attach to the small intestine where it usually grows up to seven meters. However, in rare cases, the worm can travel into the bloodstream and embed itself in the brain or eyeball.

For Cordero, the tapeworm attached to the vitreous chamber of his eye – the fluid-filled area behind the lens and between the cornea, ABC Action News reported.

Though rare – there have only been 20 worldwide cases diagnosed as the pork tapeworm since researchers began tracking it – Cordero was optimistic his doctor, who had treated a patient with the pork tapeworm before, could help him.

"He’s got a window of opportunity where he can end up with 20/20 vision and parasite free."

- Dr. Don Perez

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

“He’s got a window of opportunity where he can end up with 20/20 vision and parasite free,” Dr. Don Perez of the Perez Eye Center said.


The concern, the doctor said, was in removing the parasite before it dies. If it died in the eye, the inflammation could cause Cordero to go blind. However, if it stayed alive, it could potentially release more larvae and travel to the brain.

Fortunately, the tapeworm had not gravitated to Cordero’s brain, yet.

“If he was in the brain he would present seizures,” Perez said explaining that the worm eats the brain making tiny holes that make the brain look like Swiss cheese, ABC Action News reported.

Perez conducted the delicate procedure and was able to remove 3 mm of the worm, which was fertilized with thousands of eggs.

According to the World Health Organization, the pork tapeworm is responsible for 30 percent of epilepsy cases where humans live near roaming pigs. Proper hygiene and cooking eradicate the parasite.