NYT: RFK Jr. says worm ‘got into my brain and ate a portion of it’ | CNN Politics (2024)

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Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. experienced a series of health issues in recent years, including an abnormality that he said was caused by a worm that entered his brain and then died, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

In 2010, Kennedy, now 70, experienced severe memory loss and mental fog, he said in a deposition two years later. According to the Times, he consulted top neurologists familiar with the medical history of his uncle, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who had died of brain cancer in 2009. A New York doctor, after reviewing a scan of his brain, told him that his health issues could be “caused by a worm that got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died,” Kennedy said in the 2012 deposition, which concerned a divorce from his second wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy. Robert Kennedy said at the time that his earning power had been negatively affected by the cognitive issues, the Times reported.

Around the same time, the Times said, he suffered from mercury poisoning, which can lead to neurological issues such as loss of peripheral vision, muscle weakness and issues with movement, hearing and speech, as well as memory loss. Kennedy told the paper he has recovered from the memory loss and brain fogginess and that the parasite did not require treatment.

In addition, he has grappled for decades with atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, an irregular heartbeat. He told the Times it has been more than a decade since he experienced the condition and said he believes he no longer suffers from it.

Kennedy’s campaign declined to provide his medical records to the Times. In a statement to CNN, Stefanie Spear, a spokesperson for Kennedy’s campaign, said he had “traveled extensively in Africa, South America and Asia” as part of his work as an environmental advocate and said he contracted a parasite in one of those trips.

“The issue was resolved more than 10 years ago and he is in robust physical and mental health. Questioning Mr. Kennedy’s health is a hilarious suggestion, given his competition,” the campaign said, referring to the advanced ages of the 81-year-old President Joe Biden and 77-year-old former President Donald Trump.

In his first public comments after the report published, Kennedy in a social media post offered “to eat 5 more brain worms and still beat President Trump and President Biden in a debate.”

“I feel confident of the result even with a six-worm handicap,” he joked.

Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease expert and Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told CNN that it’s difficult to fully review Kennedy’s claim without looking at the scans. “It’s an incomplete story,” as he put it.

But, speaking generally, Hotez said people with pork tapeworm infections in their brains — a condition known as neurocysticercosis — more commonly experience seizures and sometimes need to be on anti-seizure medication for a long time because when the worms die, they form a calcified cyst in the brain that can cause the brain to release inflammatory chemicals called cytokines.

The connection to memory problems and dementia is under study, Hotez said. Those symptoms are also associated with mercury poisoning, and Kennedy told the Times that at the time he was diagnosed with that ailment, he was consuming high quantities of tuna and perch.

“Yeah, the worms are not feeding the brain. They are living in the brain,” Dr. Hotez said.The worms get nutrients from the body, but they are not eating the brain tissue, he said.

Pork tapeworm infections can be difficult to diagnose because when the worm is alive it masks itself from detection and doesn’t show up on scans.It’s more common to find the worm after it has died and left behind a calcified cyst in the brain, Hotez said.

Kennedy said he changed his lifestyle following these health episodes, including getting more sleep, traveling less, reducing his fish intake and undergoing chelation therapy that seeks to expel metals in the body.

On the campaign trail, Kennedy has portrayed himself as vibrant and youthful compared to Biden and Trump, engaging in strenuous activities like skiing and weightlifting. Biden’s physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, said in February that there were “no new concerns” with the president’s health revealed in a physical and the White House has said no cognitive test was administered as O’Connor did not find it necessary. Trump’s campaign late last year released a letter that made broad statements about his health — including claims that the former president is in “excellent” healthand that his cognitive exams “were exceptional” —but did not include information about the types of tests that Trump took or what the results were.

Kennedy’s views on personal health, including his long-held skepticism of certain vaccines, have been a distinctive feature of his public image. He has disputed suggestions that he is “anti-vaccine,” though he is the founder of the Children’s Health Defense, a group that has been accused of spreading falsehoods about vaccines.

This story has been updated with additional details and reaction.

CNN’s Brenda Goodman and Aaron Pellish contributed to this report.

NYT: RFK Jr. says worm ‘got into my brain and ate a portion of it’ | CNN Politics (2024)
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