What is cysticercosis?
Cysticercosis a parasitic tissue infection caused by larval cysts of the tapeworm Taenia solium. These larval cysts infect brain, muscle, or other tissue, and are a major cause of adult onset seizures in most low-income countries.
Ingesting food or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or larvae will cause tapeworm infection. If you ingest certain tapeworm eggs, they can migrate outside your intestines and form larval cysts in body tissues and organs (invasive infection). If you ingest tapeworm larvae, however, they develop into adult tapeworms in your intestines (intestinal infection).
Adult tapeworm’s life can live up to 30 years in a host. Intestinal tapeworm infections are usually mild, but invasive larval infections can cause serious complications.
How common is cysticercosis?
Cysticercosis is the most common parasitic disease worldwide, with an estimated prevalence greater than 50 million persons infected. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of cysticercosis?
Signs and symptoms of intestinal infection include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss and inadequate absorption of nutrients from food
If tapeworm larvae have migrated out of your intestines and formed cysts in other tissues, they can eventually cause organ and tissue damage, resulting in:
- Cystic masses or lumps
- Allergic reactions to the larvae
- Bacterial infections
- Neurological signs and symptoms, including seizures
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above orhave any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes cysticercosis?
- Ingestion of tapeworm eggs or larvae is the main reason in tapeworm infection.
- Ingestion of eggs. If you eat food or drink water contaminated with feces from a person or animal with tapeworm, you ingest microscopic tapeworm eggs.
- Ingestion of larvae cysts in meat or muscle tissue. When an animal has a tapeworm infection, it has tapeworm larvae in its muscle tissue. If you eat raw or undercooked meat from an infected animal, you ingest the larvae, which then develop into adult tapeworms in your intestines.
What increases my risk for cysticercosis?
There are many risk factors for cysticercosis, such as:
- Poor hygiene. Don’t wash and bath regularly increases the risk of accidental transfer of contaminated matter to your mouth.
- Exposure to livestock. This is especially problematic in areas where human and animal feces are not disposed of properly.
- Traveling to developing countries. Infection occurs more frequently in areas with poor sanitation practices.
- Eating raw or undercooked meats. Tapeworm eggs and larvae contained in contaminated pork or beef.
- Living in endemic areas. In certain parts of the world, exposure to tapeworm eggs is more likely.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is cysticercosis diagnosed?
- Stool sample analysis. For an intestinal tapeworm infection, your doctor may check your stool or send samples to a laboratory for testing.
- Blood test. For tissue-invasive infections, your doctor may also test your blood for antibodies your body may have produced to fight tapeworm infection.
- Imaging exam. Certain types of imaging, such as CT or MRI scans, X-rays, or ultrasounds of cysts, may suggest invasive tapeworm infection.
How is cysticercosis treated?
- In some cases, tapeworm infections don’t need any treatment, because the tapeworm exits the body on its own. Others don’t realize they have it because they have no symptoms. However, if you’re diagnosed with intestinal tapeworm infection, medication will likely be prescribed to get rid of it such as: Praziquantel (Biltricide), Albendazole (Albenza), Nitazoxanide (Alinia).
- Treatment for invasive infection
- Anthelmintic drugs. Dying tapeworm cysts can cause swelling or inflammation in tissues or organs. Therefore, you also need a prescription corticosteroid medication, such as prednisone or dexamethasone, to reduce inflammation.
- Anti-inflammatory therapy
- Anti-epileptic therapy. If the disease is causing seizures, anti-epileptic medications can stop them.
- Shunt placement. One type of invasive infection can cause excessive fluid on the brain, called hydrocephalus. You can be placed a permanent tube (shunt) in your head to drain the fluid.
- The cysts can be removed will depend on their location and symptoms. Cysts that develop in the liver, lungs and eyes are typically removed, since they can eventually threaten organ function
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cysticercosis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with cysticercosis:
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before handling food
- Wash and peel all raw vegetables and fruits before eating
- Use good food and water safety practices while traveling in developing countries such as:
- Drink only bottled or boiled (1 minute) water or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles
- Filter unsafe water through an “absolute 1 micron or less” filter AND dissolve iodine tablets in the filtered water; “absolute 1 micron” filters can be found in camping and outdoor supply stores
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Tapeworm.http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tapeworm/basics/treatment/con-20025898. Accessed January 13, 2017
Cysticercosis. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cysticercosis/prevent.html. Accessed January 13, 2017
Cysticercosis. http://www.medicinenet.com/cysticercosis/page5.htm. Accessed January 13, 2017
Review Date: July 10, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019