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Cysticercosis (Pork Tapeworm Infection)

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Cysticercosis (pork tapeworm infection) facts

  • Cysticercosis is a parasitic disease caused by ingesting the eggs of the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium.
  • Human tapeworm infection (taeniasis) occurs after ingesting raw or undercooked pork, and cysticercosis occurs after the ingestion of Taenia solium eggs.
  • The symptoms of neurocysticercosis may include
  • Cysticercosis is typically diagnosed based on the patient's symptoms and imaging study results. Blood work is sometimes useful.
  • Cysticercosis may be treated with medications, including anthelmintics, corticosteroids, and anticonvulsants, while some patients may require surgery.
  • Cysticercosis can lead to neurologic and ocular complications, and rarely death.
  • Cysticercosis can be prevented by educating individuals about proper food handling, good personal hygiene, and improved sanitation.

What is cysticercosis?

Cysticercosis is a systemic parasitic infestation caused by ingesting the eggs of the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium. The symptoms of this illness are caused by the development of characteristic cysts (cysticerci) which most often affect the central nervous system (neurocysticercosis), skeletal muscle, eyes, and skin. Many individuals with cysticercosis never experience any symptoms at all (asymptomatic).

The pork tapeworm responsible for causing cysticercosis is endemic to many parts of the developing world, including Latin America, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that cysticercosis affects about 50-100 million people worldwide. The incidence of cysticercosis has increased in the United States due to increased immigration from developing countries. Approximately 1,000 new cases of cysticercosis in the United States are reported annually. The majority of cases in the United States occur in Latin American immigrants. Neurocysticercosis is a leading cause of adult-onset seizures worldwide, and it is estimated to cause 30% of all epilepsy cases in countries where the parasite is endemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designated cysticercosis as one of five "neglected parasitic infections" in the United States, and the WHO has designated cysticercosis as one of 17 "neglected tropical diseases" worldwide.

Historically, the disease has been recognized since about 2000 B.C. by the Egyptians, and later it was described in pigs by Aristotle. The disease was also recognized by Muslim physicians and is thought to be the reason for Islamic dietary prohibition of eating pork. In the 1850s, German investigators described the life cycle of T. solium.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/30/2016


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