Man finds brain-eating worm living in his eye

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Parasitic pork tapeworm living in Florida man's eye
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Warning: This item contains material that some viewers may find disturbing due to the graphic nature.

TAMPA, Florida -- It's like something out of a science-fiction movie -- a brain-eating parasitic worm living in your eye. But for one Florida man, it was reality.

***Warning: This story contains material that some viewers may find disturbing due to the graphic nature.**

"I see like a little black dot and it's only on the left eye. So I see something moving from left to right."

The parasite swam through Sam Cordero's blood stream from his stomach into his eye.

Dr. Don Perez with Tampa General Hospital told WFTS-TV, "It came through the artery to vein circulation and it grew in here."

Cordero says he ate undercooked pork around Christmas. Months later he started seeing black dots in his vision. That was the worm settling into his eye.

If the parasite dies, the inflammation could blind Cordero. If it lays some of its 50,000 eggs they could travel to his brain and begin eating it, causing seizures. Thankfully that didn't happen.

Dr. Perez performed the delicate surgery to remove the tapeworm.

"You have to tickle it from one side and have the cutter ready so when to shoot into the light," Dr. Perez explained. "So I went into the cutter from the light you can actually aspirate and kill it."

Dr. Perez says he took out three millimeters of worm that was fertilized with those tens of thousands of eggs.

Dr. Perez says there are roughly 20 documented cases worldwide of pork tapeworms and human eyes. This is his second case.

In 2012 he successfully removed the same type of pork worm from another patient's eye.

"I've been hit with lightning because we seldom see this," he said.

Dr. Perez says this tapeworm is also responsible for 70 percent of all acquired epilepsy cases, yet most of them are never traced back to the worm. There are no reported cases in countries where people do not eat pork.