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Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Brain-Eating Worms

MRI brain scan over time. Source: Nagui Antoun
MRI brain scan over time. Source: Nagui Antoun

In the beginning, we had to worry about smallpox. And then anthrax. And then Ebola. Now topping the list of parasitic biohazard nightmares, a brain-eating worm. As it turns out, they are real. You can get them. You can get a brain-eating worm.

Scientists affiliated with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the U.K. announced yesterday that they have sequenced the genome of a tapeworm that had lived in a British man's head for four years. The worm, which is called Spirometra erinaceieuropaei, is extremely rare, and can cause seizures and memory loss. Cases have typically popped up in the East, potentially caused by small infected shelfish, raw reptile or frog meat.