Cysticercosis is a parasitic infection caused by the larval form of the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium. When the larvae invade the brain and spinal cord, the condition is referred to as neurocysticercosis. This condition affects millions of people worldwide and is the leading cause of adult onset epilepsy in the developing world.
Following ingestion, the eggs hatch in the intestine to form larvae called cysticerci. Adult tapeworms form in the small intestine and produce eggs that are shed in the feces. These eggs can infect other individuals through fecal contamination of food or other surfaces. Eggs can also hatch within the intestine of the original patient and lead to an ongoing autoinfection. The cystercerci, can migrate to the blood and invade many tissues in the body, including the CNS.
Neurocysticercosis is usually diagnosed through noninvasive techniques. Epidemiological information can be used as an initial screen; cysticercosis is endemic in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. Radiological imaging (MRI and CT scans) is the primary method used to diagnose neurocysticercosis; imaging can be used to detect the one- to two-centimeter cysts that form around the parasites. Elevated levels of eosinophils in the blood can also indicate a parasitic infection. EIA and ELISA are also used to detect antigens associated with the pathogen.
Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology