Neurocysticercosis is an infection that is caused by the larval form of a parasite called taenium solium commonly known as tapeworm. It is the most common parasitic disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS) and also the most common cause of acquired epilepsy worldwide.

The larval cyst of taenia solium can affect various parts of the body causing a condition known as cysticercosis. The larval cyst in the brain can cause a form of cysticercosis called neurocysticercosis which can lead to seizures.

CAUSES OF NEUROCYSTICERCOSIS

Cysticercosis is caused by the parasitic larval form of a tapeworm known as taenia solium.

 STAGES OF NEUROCYSTICERCOSIS

The stage of neurocysticercosis is divided into the following:

Noncystic Stage

In this stage there are small swellings which become lesions within months. The embryo of the parasite at this stage does not appear on CT or MRI scans during diagnosis.

Vesicular Stage

In this stage, the cyst has a translucent wall which holds a transparent fluid containing the parasite.

Colloidal Vesicular Stage

At this stage the cysts develop thick walls, the liquid becomes cloudy, and the person infected develops intense inflammatory reaction.

Granular Vesicular stage

Swelling subsides at this stage but seizures can still occur due to areas of inflammation that surrounds the dying parasite.

Calcific Stage

This stage occurs after the parasite has died.

SYMPTOMS OF NEUROCYSTICERCOSIS

Clinical manifestation of neurocysticercosis varies depending on the locations of the lesions, the number of the parasites and the host immune response. Although, many individuals or patients are asymptomatic while possible symptomatic presentations could include the following

Epilepsy

Dizziness

Stroke

Headache

Neuropsychiatric dysfunction

 TRANSMISSION OF NEUROCYSTICERCOSIS

Humans are infected when they ingest foods, fruits, vegetables or water that are contaminated with faeces containing the infected T.solium eggs or by putting infected fingers containing T. solium eggs into the mouth

Poor personal hygiene particularly among food handlers, can also lead to T. solium transmission.

 RISK FACTORS

T.solium occurs mostly in rural communities where pigs are reared and allowed to come in contact with human feces. Once a member of a household contracted neurocysticercosis or cysticercosis, other members of such households are at a higher risk of being infected.

 DIAGNOSIS OF NEUROCYSTICERCOSIS

Diagnosis of neurocysticercosis is usually done through MRI or brain CT scans. Although blood tests are available and can be used to help diagnose an infection, but may not be totally accurate.

 TREATMENT

Treating neurocysticercosis depends on the stage of the cyst and it focuses on removing the parasites and managing the symptoms. After proper diagnosis and symptoms assessment, antiparasitic and anti-inflammatory therapy can be used to treat the infection and in some cases surgery can be recommended for cyst removal.

 PREVENTION OF NEUROCYSTICERCOSIS

Infection from taenia solium is preventable; hence the following measure can be used to prevent the disease.

Proper washing of hands after visiting the toilet.

Meat inspection to prevent infection

Farm workers should be screened for taeniasis and also be treated if found positive for the infection

Proper sewage management should be practiced

Proper farm management to ensure that pigs and cattle are protected from ingesting feed or water contaminated with human faeces to prevent cysticercosis in animals

Eat only properly cooked meat.

Teach children the importance of good hand washing practices.

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