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Neurocysticercosis

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Overview of Neurocysticercosis

Neurocysticercosis (NCC) is a complex infection of the human central nervous system caused due to ingestion of the eggs from the tapeworm known as Taenia solium (T. solium).

The eggs can be present in food contaminated with the feces of the infected individuals or in poorly cooked infected pork which are the prime carriers of these parasites.

These infections are characterized by the occurrence of seizures and epilepsy in the infected individuals. Both men and women are equally affected wherein more than 50 million people are noted to suffer from neurocysticercosisworldwide. 1, 2

 

Causes of Neurocysticercosis

Neurocysticercosis is commonly caused by the adult porcine tapeworm Taenia solium.

Humans are the hosts for these parasites.

Accidental ingestion of contaminated food containing eggs of T.solium enters intestine. These eggs of Taenia cross the digestive tract and enter into circulatory system and are further carried to the various organs through blood stream leading to infection.1
 

Symptoms of Neurocysticercosis

Individuals may develop symptoms within months or years after ingestion of the tapeworm eggs.

While many of the affected individuals may remain asymptomatic, others may complain of vague symptoms such as headache or dizziness.

In severe cases, inflammation of the brain cells and its covering membranes can lead to a wide variety of symptoms. These can include

  • Seizures,
  • Chronic headache with nausea or vomiting,
  • Strokes
  • Altered vision.

Some may also suffer from

  • Decline in mental abilities,
  • Loss of movements of the limbs,
  • Gait disturbances
  • Loss of sensations in one half of the body.1   
     

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Diagnosis of Neurocysticercosis

Neurocysticerosis is diagnosed by laboratory tests such as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis.

Immunological tests such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) are widely used to evaluate the CSF and check for the infection.

Imaging studies such as CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging and MR spectroscopy is also done to identify the presence of the tapeworms that generally form a cyst (a bag filled with solid/liquid mass) in the infected regions.1

Stool examination is performed to identify the tapeworm carriers.

 

Treatment of Neurocysticercosis

Depending upon the advancement of the disease and location of cyst treatment is recommended.

Antiparasitic drugs such as niclosamide and albendazole are the drugs of choice in cases of symptomatic individuals.

Intestinal infections are treated by medications known as praziquante.

Corticosteroids may be advised to reduce the inflammation while anticonvulsant drugs are prescribed for treating seizures. Surgery is also recommended in more advanced stages of the infection. 1 
 

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last  updated: September 29, 2012