Human eyeball
Dr Don Perez said if the parasite, which was three millimetre in size, had died in the patient's vitreous chamber, the infection would've blinded him - Representational image Creative Commons/Pixabay

A man from Florida contracted a brain-eating tapeworm from his Christmas dinner, which almost left him blind.

Sam Cordero's life went up side down when he started seeing black dots in his left eye. An eye exam at a hospital revealed that a brain-eating parasitic worm had settled in his eye. "I see a little black dot and it's only on the left eye. I see something moving from left to right.

"When the sun comes out it bothers me a lot. I believe and suspect it came from undercooked pork we ordered around Christmas holidays and that's how I believe I got it," he added.

Dr Don Perez, an ophthalmologist, who performed a surgery on Cordero's eye told ABC Action News that the dangerous parasite, Taenia solium, had settled in the vitreous chamber of his eyes – a fluid filled area behind lens and between his corneas.

He went on to say that if the parasite, which was three millimetre in size, had died in Cordero's vitreous chamber, the infection would have left him blind. Or if the worm had laid its eggs, the larvae could've moved to Cordero's brain, resulting into cysticercosis – a disease that infects brain, muscle, or other tissue.

"He's got a window of opportunity where he can end up with 20/20 vision and parasite free," Dr Perez added.

Talking about the delicate surgery, the doctor said, as quoted by The Daily Mail, "You have to tickle it with light from one side and have the cutter raised. So when [the parasite] shorts into the cutter from the light, you can actually aspirate and kill it."

However, this was not the first time Perez has removed parasite from a patient's eye. In 2012, he operated upon another person with the same complaint, but stated that the condition is very unusual and there's been roughly 20 cases worldwide where tapeworms were found in a person's eyeball.

What is Taenia solium?

Taenia solium is commonly known as pork tapeworm, and can be contracted by eating raw or undercooked pork. The parasite generally attacks the small intestines and develops into adult tape worms – up to eight meters long – over the course of two months.

However, in some cases, it travels through the person's bloodstream from his/her stomach and to the eyes.

Tapeworm symptoms

Abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weakness, fatigue, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies are some of the symptoms associated with a tapeworm infection, although most cases have no symptoms of an infection.

In rare cases, tapeworms can lead to serious problems, including blocking the intestine, or smaller ducts in the intestine. And if they manage to move to other body parts, they can cause damage to the liver, eyes, heart, and brain, which can be life-threatening.