Cysticercosis and Epilepsy: A Critical Review


  • Arturo Carpio,

    Corresponding author
    1. Faculty of Medicine and Research Institute, University of Cuenca, Cuenca, Ecuador
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  • Alfonso Escobar,

    1. Department of Pathology, National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery of Mexico, and Department of Neurobiology Institute for Biomedical Research, University of Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
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  • W. Allen Hauser

    1. G. H. Sergievsky Center, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York, U.S.A.
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Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. A. Carpio at P.O. Box 0101-719, Cuenca, Ecuador.


Summary: Neurocysticercosis (NC) remains a major public health problem in developing and some developed countries. Currently, the best procedures for diagnosing NC are neuroimaging studies. Immunoserologic assays, such as enzyme-linked immunoelectrotransfer blot assay (EITB) or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), detect antibodies against Taenia solium, or cysticercus. Consequently, they are useful in identifying a population at risk of contact with the parasite but do not necessarily indicate a systemic active infection. Most seropositive individuals are asymptomatic. No data from prospective studies concern the proportion of these individuals that will develop seizures or other neurologic symptoms. There is a discrepancy between the results of serologic assays and neuroimaging studies: >50% of those individuals with NC diagnosed by computed tomography (CT) scan test EITB negative.

Pathophysiologic classification of NC into active, transitional, and inactive forms permits a good correlation between clinical manifestations and neuroimaging procedures and facilitates medical and surgical management and research. The most frequent clinical manifestations of NC are seizures. We assume that NC is the main cause of symptomatic epilepsy in developing countries; however, no case-control or cohort studies demonstrate this association. Most patients with NC with seizures have a good prognosis; nevertheless, further studies analyzing factors related to recurrence of seizures and possibilities of discontinuation of antiepileptic medications (AEDs) are needed.

Regarding treatment of NC with antihelminthic drugs, no controlled clinical trials exist that establish specific indications, definitive doses, and duration of treatment. The most effective approach to taeniasis/cysticercosis infection is prevention. This should be a primary public health focus for developing countries.

We critically review the available information regarding the epidemiology and diagnosis of human cysticercosis, the physiopathology and imaging correlation of the parasite in the central nervous system (CNS) of the host, the relation between seizures or epilepsy and NC, and the issues surrounding the treatment and prognosis of NC, including the use of antihelminthic therapy.