Do parasites actually ‘eat’ human tissue? And how do they end up in the brain?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign says a parasitic worm the presidential candidate contracted years ago while traveling outside of the United States ate a portion of his brain, then died.

How do parasites, such as tapeworms, get into the brain in the first place? Scientists say they can — but that they “eat” human tissue is something of a misnomer.

Lori Ferrins, a research associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Northeastern University, studies neglected parasitic diseases. She says it’s possible that inflammation caused by a parasitic illness could make it easier for organisms to slip past the membrane shielding the brain known as the blood-brain barrier.

“Amoeba can work their way through the blood-brain barrier and tapeworms are also known to migrate into the brain,” Ferrins tells Northeastern Global News

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AP Photo by Michael Brochstein

Chemistry and Chemical Biology