RFK Jr. details medical abnormality that he says was a parasitic worm in his brain

Aaron Pellish, CNN | 5/9/2024, 2:14 p.m.
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Wednesday detailed the medical abnormality he experienced in 2010 that he said …
Independent Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on May 8 detailed a medical abnormality he experienced in 2010. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Behar/Sipa USA/AP via CNN Newsource

 Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Wednesday detailed the medical abnormality he experienced in 2010 that he said was caused by a worm that entered his brain and then died, marking his first public explanation of the incident.

Kennedy said he recalls experiencing “brain fog” and “having trouble with word retrieval and short-term memory,” during that period in a podcast interview on “Pushing the Limits with Brian Shapiro.”

He was initially told by doctors that he had a tumor in his brain, and was planning to have it removed before he met with another doctor who looked at images of his brain and said it didn’t look like a tumor, Kennedy said.

After the doctor measured the abnormality and determined that it hadn’t grown, Kennedy continued, “they said that this is almost certainly a parasite that got into your brain … it’s a parasite that’s very common in India where I had done a lot of environmental work.”

According to the New York Times, which first reported the incident on Wednesday, Kennedy had said during a 2012 deposition, which concerned a divorce from his second wife, that a doctor had told him his health issues could be “caused by a worm that got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died.”

In a statement to CNN Wednesday, 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.

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.

Kennedy on Wednesday also detailed his experience with a bout of mercury poisoning, which he said occurred around the same time he was diagnosed with a parasite in his brain. Kennedy said tests showed his blood containing “sky high” levels of mercury, and said he underwent chelation therapy to remove the metals from the body.

“At the same time, I was having my mercury tested, and I was getting all kinds of tests, and my mercury test came back sky high. So, ten times what, you know, the EPA levels were for blood mercury, I think it was,” Kennedy said. “They were over ten times what– what anybody considered safe. And I had that chelated out and all of that brain fog went away.”

Kennedy said he has made a full recovery from both health incidents.

CNN’s Michelle Shen contributed to this report.