An Austin, Texas man harbored a freeloading tapeworm in his brain for over 10 years—and he had no idea.
The bizarre situation begs the question, just how many of this man's thoughts over the last decade were the unoriginal fabrications of an invertebrate?
The former parasitic host is known only as Gerardo.
In the Summer of 2019, after several months of headaches and generally "feeling off," Gerardo fainted during a soccer game.
He told KXAN Local News Central Texas about his symptoms.
"It's very intense, very strong because it made me sweat too, sweat from the pain, pain in the head, and then, I would vomit from the pain."
Passing out proved to be Gerardo's saving grace.
The incident led him to the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas, where an MRI shed light on the presence of a four centimeter (1.57 inch) long tapeworm.
Dr. Jordan Amadio, a neurosurgeon at the hospital, identified the parasite as Taenia solium. This is a tapeworm particularly found in undercooked pork.
Taenia solium hangs out in pigs and lays its larvae inside the swine's body. If any pork eaten from such a pig isn't fully cooked, the larvae passes on to the human consumer.
That's exactly what went down with Gerardo.
While camped out in the brain, Taenia solium lays microscopic larval eggs that cause problematic—and possibly fatal—cysts. The cysts amount to an infection known as neurocysticercosis, Amadio told The Daily Mail.
Amadio described the sleeping giant to KXAN.
"This can go undetected for years, so you can eat by accident a microscopic egg from the tapeworm larva and not know it for years."
"'They can grow inside the body without causing symptoms until they get big enough."
Because Gerardo's sister experienced the same infection just a few years before, Dr. Amadio determined he likely picked up microscopic larvae while eating pork over a decade ago in Mexico, where Gerardo used to live.
"In certain regions of the country, like Texas and California, this can be more common. So, there's definitely something, I think, for every medical professional to be aware of."
"It is not commonly seen and can actually masquerade as different things."
Surgery was necessary, but Gerardo is now worm-free and healthy as ever.
Despite the fortunate ending, the internet has not been chill about the discovery.
Some have been opportunistic about the pork detail.
With 4,000 confirmed cases of neurocysticercosis in the U.S. every year, others took the paranoiac route.
Brenda Rhode Loper/Facebook
Some just contributed plain, irrelevant paranoia to the discussion.
And finally, one person opted for just irrelevant, hold the paranoia.
Perhaps you aren't the only one enjoying this article. Perhaps something else is behind your eyes, taking it all in.