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Spargana

What's hungry for your brain (and other tissues), can grow up to 11.8 inches (30 centimeters) in length and can live up to 20 years in your body? Charming spargana.

Sparganosis is an intestinal infection caused by the spargana parasite, a tapeworm, and is a food-borne illness that mainly affects animals other than humans. You're only at risk of becoming infected if you eat undercooked meat from an infected bird, reptile (such as snake meat), amphibian (such as frog meat) or mammal, or by drinking contaminated water.

Symptoms of sparganosis vary wildly, depending on what part of your body the parasite makes its home in. Some locations may be symptom-free but if it decides your brain looks cozy, you may experience headaches or seizures.

Most sparganosis infections occur in China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. Sparganosis is rare. In China, approximately 1,000 sparganosis infections were reported across 22 provinces between 1927 and 2007 [source: Li]. And in the 67 years between 1943 and 2010 there were only 52 cases reported in Thailand [source: Anantaphruti]. In the U.S., the infection rate among humans is still much lower than in Thailand.

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