RFK Jr Says Doctors Found A Brain Eating Parasite In His Head. But Is It Possible?

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says a worm had entered his brain and later died, according to the New York Times. He had seen several doctors in 2010 after he was experiencing brain fog and memory loss, and brain images showed signs of a brain tumor.

However, the dark spot found on the brain scan seemed to be abnormal. One doctor told Kennedy that a parasite had penetrated his brain and eaten a part of it. He also had mercury poisoning from a heavy diet of fish, which can also cause tremors, blurry vision, and memory loss. Kennedy now maintains that his cognitive function is intact.

Kennedy told the New York Times that a previous trip to South Asia might have been where he became infected with the parasite. Medical experts said the parasite might have been a larva from pork. Dr. Clinton White of the University of Texas Galveston said tapeworm larvae that reach the brain are much smaller than ones that live in your gut.

How common is a brain tapeworm?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1,000 people are hospitalized every year for larval cysts in the brain. The condition is called neurocysticercosis, and you can get it if you eat undercooked pork that's infected with a tapeworm. The tapeworm could produce eggs in the digestive system, but these eggs are pooped out. If someone with a tapeworm doesn't practice good handwashing, these eggs could be passed to others through their food. These eggs then hatch in the body, and the larvae can reach the brain.

Neurocysticercosis is a leading cause of preventable epilepsy across the world, as stated by the World Health Organization. It's often found in places like Mexico, Central America, and India. When the tapeworm larvae infect the brain, the inflammation can cause seizures and put pressure on the brain. People can also experience headaches or vomiting (per UCLA Health).