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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Samuel Aluh received his Bachelor of Science degree from Osun State University Osogbo Osun State (UNIOSUN). He is presently undergoing a postgraduate study in Public health and Parasitology at the University of Nigeria. He also has professional certification in project management as well as in health safety and environment.
He is a young, vibrant and intelligent individual with a great passion for public health, Neglected Tropical Disease (NTDs) and infectious disease.