Cysticercosis

Cysticercosis is a tissue infection caused by the young form of the pork tapeworm.[6][1] People may have few or no symptoms for years.[3][2] In some cases, particularly in Asia, solid lumps of between one and two centimetres may develop under the skin.[1] After months or years these lumps can become painful and swollen and then resolve.[3][2] A specific form called neurocysticercosis, which affects the brain, can cause neurological symptoms.[2] In developing countries this is one of the most common causes of seizures.[2]

Cysticercosis
Magnetic resonance image (MRI) in a person with neurocysticercosis showing many cysts within the brain.
SpecialtyInfectious disease
Symptoms1–2 cm lumps under the skin[1]
ComplicationsNeurocysticercosis[2]
DurationLong term[3]
CausesEating tapeworm eggs (fecal oral transmission)[1]
Diagnostic methodaspiration of a cyst[2]
PreventionImproved sanitation, treating those with taeniasis, cooking pork well[1]
TreatmentNone, medications[2]
MedicationPraziquantel, albendazole, corticosteroids, anti seizure medications[1]
Frequency1.9 million[4]
Deaths400[5]

Cysticercosis is usually acquired by eating food or drinking water contaminated by tapeworms' eggs from human feces.[1] Among foods egg-contaminated vegetables[1] are a major source.[7] The tapeworm eggs are present in the feces of a person infected with the adult worms, a condition known as taeniasis.[2][8] Taeniasis, in the strict sense, is a different disease and is due to eating cysts in poorly cooked pork.[1] People who live with someone with the pork tapeworm have a greater risk of getting cysticercosis.[8] The diagnosis can be made by aspiration of a cyst.[2] Taking pictures of the brain with computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are most useful for the diagnosis of disease in the brain.[2] An increased number of a type of white blood cell, called eosinophils, in the cerebral spinal fluid and blood is also an indicator.[2]

Infection can be effectively prevented by personal hygiene and sanitation:[1] this includes cooking pork well, proper toilets and sanitary practices, and improved access to clean water.[1] Treating those with taeniasis is important to prevent spread.[1] Treating the disease when it does not involve the nervous system may not be required.[2] Treatment of those with neurocysticercosis may be with the medications praziquantel or albendazole.[1] These may be required for long periods.[1] Steroids, for anti-inflammation during treatment, and anti-seizure medications may also be required.[1] Surgery is sometimes done to remove the cysts.[1]

The pork tapeworm is particularly common in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America.[2] In some areas it is believed that up to 25% of people are affected.[2] In the developed world it is very uncommon.[9] Worldwide in 2015 it caused about 400 deaths.[5] Cysticercosis also affects pigs and cows but rarely causes symptoms as most are slaughtered before symptoms arise.[1] The disease has occurred in humans throughout history.[9] It is one of the neglected tropical diseases.[10]


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