Cysticercosis: The Plague of NAFTA

This is a pet peeve of mine, and I’d like to set it free on this forum.

I believe that there is a grave epidemiological threat to US residents from the loosening of trade restrictions by NAFTA. We have heard about the hepatitis-tainted strawberries from south of the border. that was real enough.

What we haven’t heard about is another ugly disease, cysticercosis, which is an infestation with the larval form of Taenia solium, the so-called pork tapeworm.

Contrary to what most people believe, cysticercosis does not result from eating undercooked contaminated pork. It results from ingesting T. solium eggs, which typically contaminate vegetables, such as lettuce, that have been fertilized with fecal matter (“night soil”)produced by organisms, such as humans, that serve as the parasite’s primary host.

I have seen dozens, and probably well over 100 patients in the Bay Area with cysticercosis over the past 10 years. Most of these patients have come to my attention because I am a neurologist, and the patients have manifested neurological symptoms, usually seizures, as a result of brain infestations with this nasty worm.

The alarming thing that I have noted is that more and more of these patients have never been to an endemic region (such as Mexico). They presumably got the infection from eating lettuce and other foodstuffs imported from Mexico. Unless you cook your lettuce, you are at risk of getting these nasty little brain worms. Fortunately, there is a treatment. But the disease is pretty disgusting.

Thank you, NAFTA!

OK, but your question is?

I’m a little unsure what the connection is with NAFTA. Surely cause and effect with Mexican foodstuffs is difficult to prove? Surely you know better than to claim an epidemiological trend based on your own personal anecdotal observations as a specialist – you may be seeing all of the cases. I’m not really aware of any increase in pork tapeworm in Canada since we started free trade with Mexico. Of course, you could be right, but not necessarily, eh?

I don’t think it’s NAFTA per se, but the urbanization and suburbanization of California. CA used to be a big agriculture state, but now imports a great deal of produce from Mexico and other countries. NAFTA may or may not facilitate the bringing in of ag products; I don’t know the details of the agreement.

This seems a part of the greater issue of developed countries using undeveloped countries to do their dirtier work for less money and greater damage to the less developed countries’ economies, laborers, and environments. For example, I understand that some countries from which we now import food still use DDT. This doesn’t do their field hands or their fields any good in the long run, but as long as we don’t see it in our backyards and get our fruits and so forth all year round, we could largely care less.

So they presumably were infested by foodstuffs which were presumably imported from Mexico, and presumably the only reason this would happen is NAFTA?

OK, you convinced me! Let’s tear up that treaty right now!

Very little lettuce is imported into California from Mexico. Almost all lettuce products eaten in the Western United States, as well as a goodly amount of the salad lettuce eaten in the rest of the country, is grown in one of four locations in California: the Central Valley, the Salinas/Pajaro River Valleys, Oxnard/Ventura, and the Sonora Desert (Indio down to Brawley and Calexico).

I find it difficult to understand how someone intelligent enough to become a practicing neurologist, one of the more complicated areas of medicine, could make the assumption that a supposed recent increase in a given disease was caused by the passage of a trade treaty, without providing a considerable amount of data absent in the original posting. Presumably, the poster is aware that temporal coincidence is not the same as cause and effect, although I ran across a hell of a lot of doctors in my stint as a workers’ compensation attorney who sure as hell didn’t understand that concept. :wink:

Neurodoc, I know this is a very difficult concept, but this forum is called General Questions because it is for…wait for it…Questions!

This thread is closed.