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Tapeworm in brain causes epilepsy

10th November 2009

Some 30% of all epilepsy cases worldwide are caused by a common intestinal parasite spread in undercooked pork.


Neurocysticercosis (NCC) is a brain infection common in areas where sanitation is poor.

Epilepsy and seizures result when eggs laid by the Taenia solium tapeworm end up in the brain.

The growth of the tapeworm in the gut is usually due to people eating raw or undercooked pork.

The tapeworm's eggs end up in faeces, and in poorly sanitised areas infects people through the oral route.

For the purposes of the study, researchers at Texas A&M University in the US reviewed over 500 articles from scientific and medical journals related to NCC.

Epidemiologist Christine Budke said that 30% of all people suffering epilepsy in countries where tapeworm is frequent also suffer from NCC.

She said that tapeworm is frequent in most developing countries where pork is consumed.

Arve Lee Willingham of the WHO/FAO Collaborating Center for Parasitic Zoonoses, which commissioned the study, said that the figure was much higher than they had expected.

Up to three million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone may suffer from epilepsy due to NCC, with an estimated fifty million worldwide sufferers.

Budke said that, if people want to prevent the spread of NCC-related epilepsy, they should focus on raising standards of hygiene in poor countries where pork is eaten.

Claudia Stein, a medical officer for the WHO, said that pigs must not be kept near faeces.

Willingham said that, although these and other measures are included in a six-point plan drafted by the WHO, it is important that both people and pigs in affected areas receive treatment with anti-tapeworm drugs.

There are three types of tapeworms that cause NCC, and sufferers may have all three of them in their brains.

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gareth Bold

Saturday 14th November 2009 @ 17:16

so does this mean that everyone with epilepsy should try a course of medication just in case they are infected with tapeworm?

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Article Information

Title: Tapeworm in brain causes epilepsy
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 13202
Date Added: 10th Nov 2009



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