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Neurocysticercosis

What is neurocysticercosis?

Neurocysticercosis is a type of neurological infection that is caused by the pork tapeworm Taenia solium. Neurocysticercosis is the most common infection of the Central nervous system (CNS).

This disease affects the people who ingest the tapeworm, and it grows when the worm’s larvae build up in the muscles, eyes, skin, and CNS.

Taenia Solium may enter the body of a person if the person:

  • Eats undercooked pork from a pig with infection
  • Drink water with the parasite
  • Doesn’t maintain hygiene

Stages of neurocysticercosis

The neurocysticercosis has five stages, these stages range with the lifecycle of the parasite that causes it. These states are:

Stage 1

Non-cystic stage: This is the stage of the parasite when its embryo doesn’t show on computer tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging. But there will be small areas of inflammation and later they will become lesions, as the embryo evolves to form the cyst that indicates this condition.

Stage 2

Vesicular stage: In this stage, the cysts developing translucent walls and carry transparent fluid that contain the parasite. As long as the cyst can be unbroken the person tends to have no reactions.

Stage 3

Colloidal vesicular stage: In this stage, the cysts start to developing thick walls, the fluid becomes cloudy, and the infected person develops an intense inflammatory reaction. This can be due to the parasite starting to deteriorate, either from the treatment or the natural cause of the infection. In this stage, an imaging test will reveal the cystic lesion with inflammation. Now, it is common to develop seizures for the person.

Stage 4

Granular vesicular stage: In this stage the swelling is moderate, but seizures can still happen.

Stage 5

Calcific stage: This is the stage when the parasite has died.

Symptoms of neurocysticercosis

The symptoms of neurocysticercosis may depend on the location of the lesion, the extent of the infection, and your immune system. Many people with neurocysticercosis develop no symptoms, some people may take months to years to start developing symptoms.

Cysts, also known as cysticerci may develop in muscle. Eyes, brain, and spinal cord. The symptoms may also depend on the location, size, stage, and number of cysts.

Common symptoms may include:

  • Seizures
  • Chronic headaches
  • Increased pressure in the brain

The most common symptom of neurocysticercosis are seizures and often the only indications for this condition.

Diagnosis of neurocysticercosis

The diagnosis of neurocysticercosis depends on the symptoms and the conditions.

Diagnosis of neurocysticercosis requires a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or computer tomography (CT) scans.

Blood tests are useful to diagnose an infection. However, they are not always using light infections. In case you are diagnosed with neurocysticercosis, your doctor advises your family to get a blood test for intestinal tapeworm infection.

Your doctor and health care team may also perform an antibody-specific blood test to support the imaging tests.

Treatment of neurocysticercosis

Your doctor will focus on removing the parasite and managing the symptoms such as by controlling seizures, inflammation, and intracranial hypertension.

The treatment will also depend on the position, size abundance, and maturity of the parasite.

After accessing your symptoms and extent of the infection your doctor may use antiparasitic and anti-inflammatory therapy. But in some cases, surgery is necessary to remove the cysts.

Anthelmintic therapy: If you have symptoms and multiple non-calcified cysts, your doctor can use certain drugs to expel the parasite, this is known as anthelmintic therapy. This is not suitable for calcified cysts.

Steroids: your doctor may also treat you with steroids to suppress the inflammation and anti-convulsant therapy to suppress seizures.

The time of recovery depends on a range of individual factors, but the number of people who fully recover is increasing.

Complications of neurocysticercosis

Neurocysticercosis can lead to severe brain conditions such as primary stroke and even death in some cases.

Also, surgical removal of the cyst is necessary, which may increase the chances of additional infections.

Risk factors of neurocysticercosis

T. solium infections mostly found in the rural farming community where pigs come in contact with human feces. But, a rise in international traveling has led to the spread of the infection to other areas.

People also have a high risk of neurocysticercosis or cysticercosis, if any of the family members are infected with the same. 

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