At Age 70, RFK Jr. Has Health Issues That Are More Serious Than the Brain Worm

And he's supposed to be the young healthy one

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

The tabloid-ready headlines about the worm that ate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s brain have overshadowed it, but revelations about Kennedy’s medical history also revealed several other potentially debilitating health issues. The revelations were published by the New York Times this week in an article that was reprinted by

Testifying in a deposition in 2012, Kennedy, then 58, said he was experiencing symptoms of a brain tumor, especially memory loss and severe mental fogginess. The symptoms were especially concerning because his uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, died from brain cancer in 2009.

Scans showed a small mass in the Kennedy Jr.’s brain, and he was scheduled for surgery. A last-minute second opinion revised the diagnosis as a parasitic infection, likely from a pork tapeworm larva. As Kennedy put it back then, he was infected by “a worm that got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died.”

Other health concerns

Kennedy also revealed that he’d suffered from atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat condition that leads to an increased risk of stroke or heart failure. According to the Times, “he has been hospitalized at least four times for episodes of a-fib, although in an interview with the Times this winter, he said he had not had an incident in more than a decade and believed the condition had disappeared.”

He has also been diagnosed with mercury poisoning, which is often caused by eating contaminated fish. Mercury poisoning can cause serious neurological issues.

He also admitted that he contracted hepatitis C through intravenous drug use in his youth. He said he’d gone through treatment and has suffered no long-term effects.

Kennedy’s perpetually strained vocal cords are a result of spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological disorder. He said recently that he had undergone a procedure in Japan that inserted a titanium implant in his vocal folds to lessen the constriction.

Takeaway: Don’t eat pork

During the deposition, which was part of divorce negotiations, Kennedy claimed that cognitive impairment from the brain parasite had diminished his earning ability. He told the Times that although he was not treated for the parasite, he has recovered from memory loss and fogginess.

Doctors have found that after the larvae die, the brain encases them in a sort of cocoon, which can cause a condition known as neurocysticercosis. Symptoms can include inflammation as well as seizures, headaches and dizziness. According to the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, there are roughly 2,000 hospitalizations for neurocysticercosis each year in the United States,

Scott Gardner, curator of the Manter Laboratory for Parasitology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said once any worm is in a brain, cells calcify around it. “And you’re going to basically have almost like a tumor that’s there forever. It’s not going to go anywhere.”


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