Tapeworm infections are common to many parts of the world. However, collected data now shows that infections are on the rise in the U.S.
In light of the increase, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has released a guideline on treating the condition neurocysticercosis, which is a tapeworm infection that can cause seizures. This follows reports of increases in the U.S., especially in the Southwest (according to Medscape).
Neurocysticercosis is an infection of the brain or spinal cord caused by the tapeworm Taenia solium. The tapeworm can also cause infections in the intestines. According to the World Health Organization the infection is can trigger epilepsy.
The new guideline has stated that that a combination of the drug albendazole and a corticosteroid can effectively treat neurocysticercosis. Albendazole is used to kill the parasite. The corticosteroid, such as dexamethasone or prednisolone, is used to treat the inflammation that develops as the parasite is dying.
The tapeworm Taenia soliuminfects the intestines happens when a person eats raw or undercooked meat that has the tapeworm cysts in it. Eggs of the tapeworm are shed in stool and contaminate food through poor hygiene. When these eggs are ingested and exposed to gastric acid in the human stomach, they lose their protective capsule and turn into larval cysts.
The parasite affects the brain when someone eats food or drinking water contaminated with the tapeworm eggs. The infection can remain in the brain as viable cysts for years.
Food can be contaminated with fecal matter from a person who has the infection. Infection from this tapeworm is preventable though good personal hygiene, such as washing hands thoroughly after using the bathroom.
The guideline has been published in the journal Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, and is titled ‘Evidence-based guideline: Treatment of parenchymal neurocysticercosis’.