You've heard of disgusting, 20-foot-long tapeworms living inside peoples' intestines, but it turns out their larvae are even more horrific, and they could be eating holes in your brain right now, undetected.
Basically, brain tapeworms -- larvae that can attach themselves to the cranium in the form of large white cysts -- are the result of a wrong turn. The larvae are accustomed to traveling through a pig's bloodstream and attaching themselves to its muscles. But when a human eats undercooked pork, there's a chance he or she could be eating undercooked tapeworm larvae as well.
Though the larva is now inside the human body, it still thinks it's inside the pig. Confusion ensues. It flows through the bloodstream and gets stuck inside fluid-filled cavities in the brain, then latches on and masks itself from the immune system. These larvae can form vast networks on the brain and completely mangle its function if not treated.
The magazine reported that Maryland's Dr. Theodore Nash sees patients with horrible side-effects caused by tapeworm brain damage. Some fall into comas, while others lose motor functions, experience violent seizures or go blind.
Worse, the affliction is more common than you might think. It's difficult to track exactly how many people have them because the tapeworms thrive in areas of the world with poor sanitation and less extensive healthcare networks. While Nash estimates that upward of 2,000 people have them in the United States, he says 29 million people -- or more -- could have them in Latin America alone.
And the adult tapeworms living in your intestines? They can lay up to 50,000 eggs apiece.
The disease is treatable, but its only cure, praziquantel, can cause severe swelling of the brain and problems with seizures down the line. Researchers are still working on safer treatments.
But do not fear. As Gizmodo reports, the easiest way to make sure you don't get brain tapeworms (or any other disease caused by raw meat, for that matter) is to cook your meat and wash your hands thoroughly.
An X-ray shows a pair of surgical scissors in the abdomen of Anne, a woman in Lyon, France, who complained of abdominal pain after a surgery. Five months after the operation, Anne realized the scissors had been forgotten in her womb when the point of the scissors pierced her navel following a coughing fit.
Doctors examining an ultrasound of a testicular tumor in Canada were shocked by the resemblance to a face in agony. "It was very ghoulish, like a man screaming in pain," said Doctor Naji Touma, who works at Queen's University, according to The Toronto Star.
These CT scans show a 6-inch spear lodged in the head of Emerson de Oliveira Abreu, who sought treatment at a hospital in Brazil in late March. The spear pierced his head during an underwater fishing accident. After doctors operated to remove the spear, Abreau said he would never fish underwater again.
X-rays from Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C., on display in May 2006 show items such as bed springs and batteries that prisoners swallowed to gain trips to outside hospitals.
Albuquerque resident Rachelle Atkinson says she and her husband Scott had searched everywhere for their $4,500 wedding ring before beginning to suspect the dog ate it.
A 15-year-old had a blowgun dart stuck in his throat. Reproduced with permission from Pediatrics, Copyright @ by the AAP. Full text may be available from Pediatrics' website: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/.
A CT scan shows a 14.5 millimeter live round of ammunition lodged in the skull of an Afghan soldier. A U.S. military doctor successfully removed the unexploded round -- more than 2 inches long -- at the Bagram Air Field hospital in Afghanistan last month.
An 8-year-old girl from Indiana swallowed steel balls and magnets from a toy set in May. The child required emergency surgery and was hospitalized for two weeks.
In this Monday Sept. 12, 2011 image of a CAT scan released by Brazilian Federal Police on Sept. 16, 2011, bags loaded with cocaine are seen inside the body of an unidentified man after he was arrested at the Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Monday. According to a federal police press release, the man is identified as a young Irish male who tried to board a flight to Brussels after swallowing 72 capsules containing a total of 830 grams (1.82 pounds) of cocaine.
Houdini, a 12-foot python, swallowed an electric blanket in July 2006 that his owner put in his cage for warmth. The snake was doing fine after surgery.
This dozing drunk caught a free ride on the baggage belt at a Rome airport, and received a free full-body X-ray in the process.
A nail gun shot six nails into construction worker Isidro Mejia's head during an April 2004 accident. He survived and was expected at the time to recover fully.
A stunning X-ray image shows a knife stuck deep inside a Chinese teenager's cheek. Ren Hanzhi, 13, tripped and fell while peeling an apple -- jamming himself in the face with a nearly 8-inch knife on Jan. 31. Amazingly, the blade did not strike the boy's brain and doctors were able to remove the knife, expecting him to make a full recovery.
A Miami teen who impaled himself in the forehead in a spearfishing gun accident is very, very lucky, according to surgeons who were able to remove the long piece of metal that was lodged all the way through his brain.
In this image provided by the University Medical Center in Tucson, a CT scan shows a pair of pruning shears embedded in the head of an 86-year-old Green Valley, Ariz., man before it was removed by Medical Center surgeons in Tucson on July 30, 2011. Leroy Luetscher was accidentally impaled through his eye socket after falling on the shears while working in his yard, the handle penetrating his eye socket and reaching down into his neck. He is expected to make a full recovery. (AP Photo/University Medical Center,Tucson, Arizona)
Dante Autullo, a 32-year-old Chicago man, accidentally shot a 3.5 inch nail in his brain and didn't notice for more than 24 hours. In January of 2012, doctors at Advocate Christ Medical Center successfully removed the nail and replaced a piece of his skull with a mesh patch and titanium plate.
Three X-rays of Marilyn Monroe's chest and pelvis taken during a 1954 hospital visit have sold for more than 10 times their presale estimates, earning $45,000.
This tomography scan released Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 by the Miguel Couto hospital, show the skull of 24-year-old construction worker Eduardo Leite pierced by a metal bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Doctors say Leite survived after a 6-foot metal bar fell from above him and pierced his head. Luiz Essinger of Rio de Janeiro's Miguel Couto Hospital Friday told the Globo TV network that doctor's successfully withdrew the iron bar during a five-hour-long surgery.
When California vice principal Josh Abken told his doctor he was having persistent back pain about a year ago, the doctor took an X-ray. They discovered a soccer-ball sized "alien" tumor that had become as solid as a rock and even had growing tentacles.
A 6-inch pair of surgical scissors appears in the abdomen of Australian Pat Skinner in April 2004 -- 18 months after her initial operation.
A 30-year-old Atlanta woman with a history of bulimia swallowed a knife while demonstrating that she no longer had a gag reflex for friends, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Yang Yi Kui, of China, accidentally lodged an 8-cm nail in his head, and didn't even realize it was there until he went to the hospital because he felt sick. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/06/nail-in-head_n_4548951.html?1389024193" target="_blank">Read the whole story here.</a>
The man has a condition called cutis verticis gyrata, which is when the scalp has "ridges and furrows resembling the brain's surface."
A man in China's southeastern Guangdong province admitted himself to a local hospital after he reportedly got a live eel stuck inside him. According to British tabloid The Sun, the man inserted the 20-inch-long Asian <a href="http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4880024/porn-addict-rushed-to-hospital-after-he-put-live-eel-up-bum.html" target="_hplink">swamp eel into his anus after seeing it done in a porn movie</a>, and he had to endure all-night surgery to have it extracted. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/eel-removed-from-man-stuck-colon-photo_n_3046785.html?utm_hp_ref=weird-news" target="_blank">(Read More)</a>
A film released in February 2006 shows PVC plumbing pipes put into a deceased person as part of an alleged body parts ring. Several people were charged in the case.
Yeah, it's disgusting. Sorry about that.
Lee Gardner got a plastic fork stuck in his stomach. FOR 10 YEARS. Here's the fork in it's glory, after the operation.
A nail rests in a South Korean man's skull in December 2004. He sought help for a bad headache and upon discovery said it likely happened four years earlier.
The leg of a chair thrown outside a Melbourne, Australia, club in January 2007 speared Shafique el-Fahkri's eye socket down to his neck. He spent a month in intensive care but has mostly recovered.
Cell phones were found in the intestines of four prisoners in El Salvador's maximum-security prison, authorities said in September 2006. Suspicious prison officials took X-rays of each of the prisoners.
Police in Sydney, Australia, released this X-ray of the skull of Chen Liu, 27, who died after being shot in the head with a nail gun 34 times. Liu's bound body was found in a river in November. The photo was released as part of a public plea for more information in the case. Liu is shown on the upper left in an undated photo.