RFK Jr. Says Doctors Found a Dead Worm in His Brain

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In 2010, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was experiencing memory loss and mental fogginess so severe that a friend grew concerned he might have a brain tumor. Kennedy said he consulted several of the country’s top neurologists – Several doctors noticed a dark spot on the younger Kennedy’s brain scans and concluded that he had a tumor – he received a call from a doctor at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital who had a different opinion: Kennedy, he believed, had a dead parasite in his head.

The doctor believed that the abnormality seen on his scans “was caused by a worm that got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died,” Kennedy said in the deposition. “I have cognitive problems, clearly,” he said in the 2012 deposition. “I have short-term memory loss, and I have longer-term memory loss that affects me.”

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Doctors ultimately concluded that the cyst they saw on scans contained the remains of a parasite. Kennedy said he did not know the type of parasite or where he might have contracted it, though he suspected it might have been during a trip through South Asia.

Several infectious disease experts and neurosurgeons said based on what Kennedy described, they believed it was likely a pork tapeworm larva.

Dr. Clinton White, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said microscopic tapeworm eggs are sticky and easily transferred from one person to another. Once hatched, the larvae can travel in the bloodstream, he said, “and end up in all kinds of tissues.”

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Though it is impossible to know, he added that it is unlikely that a parasite would eat a part of the brain, as Kennedy described. Rather, White said, it survives on nutrients from the body. Unlike tapeworm larvae in the intestines, those in the brain remain relatively small, about a third of an inch.

Some tapeworm larvae can live in a human brain for years without causing problems. Others can wreak havoc, often when they start to die, which causes inflammation. The most common symptoms are seizures, headaches and dizziness.


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