Neurocysticercosis is an infection of the brain or spinal cord. It is caused by the tapeworm Taenia solium. A tapeworm is a type of parasite, which is a life form that lives in or on another life form. Tapeworms can live inside the bodies of human or animals. They also can live in the fecal matter (solid waste) of human or animals. When a tapeworm enters a person’s body, it usually makes the person sick. The tapeworm that causes neurocysticercosis also can infect the intestines. This is known as taeniasis. In taeniasis, symptoms usually set in 6 to 8 weeks after exposure to the tapeworm. However, some people with the infection may have no symptoms for years.
When taeniasis symptoms are experienced, they may include:
- • Abdominal pain
- • Constipation (difficulty passing stools/solid waste)
- • Diarrhea (loose stools/solid waste)
- • Nausea (stomach upset)
If the infection spreads to the brain or spinal cord, neurocysticercosis develops. Symptoms may include:
- • Seizures/a form of epilepsy (a seizure disorder)
- • Blindness • Chronic headaches
- • Hydrocephalus (water on the brain)
- • Meningitis (infection of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord)
- • Swelling of the brain
What causes taeniasis and neurocysticercosis?
The tapeworm Taenia solium can infect a person in two ways. The infection of the intestines (taeniasis) happens when a person eats raw or undercooked meat that has the tapeworm cysts in it. These are sacs that have the larval (undeveloped) form of the tapeworm in them. A person gets neurocysticercosis by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the tapeworm eggs. Food or water can be contaminated with fecal matter from a person or animal who has the infection. Usually this happens from poor hygiene within a household or other environment. A person who develops this infection can spread it to others with whom they have close contact. Infection from this tapeworm is preventable. To avoid it, people should be sure the meat they eat is cooked completely. In addition, practicing good personal hygiene is important. This involves washing hands thoroughly after using the bathroom.
How is neurocysticercosis treated?
When the tapeworm Taenia solium has infected a person’s brain or spinal cord, treatment involves two main drug therapies:
- • Albendazole, a drug that kills the tapeworm cysts
- • The steroid drug dexamethasone or the steroid drug prednisolone
By – Tutor – Ms. Annu Panchal
Department of Nursing
Uttaranchal (P.G.) College Of Bio-Medical Sciences & Hospital