Symptoms and Signs of Cysticercosis

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Medically Reviewed on 5/2/2019

Doctor's Notes on Cysticercosis

Cysticercosis is a disease where tapeworm larvae (Taenia solium, usually from pigs) go through the intestinal tissue and infect other organs like the brain (neurocysticercosis), eyes, or heart. The disease is not considered contagious person to person. Symptoms and signs may never appear in some patients. However, patients with the disease, especially if they have a number of larvae invade an organ, often develop serious symptoms. For example, a seizure is the first appearing symptom in many individuals. Other symptoms may include brain edema, hydrocephalus, chronic meningitis, vasculitis, paralysis, partial blindness, coma, and death. Eating undercooked pork (with cysticerci in pig muscle tissue) can lead to tapeworm infection in the intestine but not directly to cysticercosis.

The cause of cysticercosis is mainly Taenia solium although other Taenia species may also cause the disease. Eggs pass into the environment usually through pig feces and ingested by humans. The eggs hatch and then penetrate the intestinal wall and circulate in the body and then lodge in organs. Neurocysticercosis (brain infection by the larvae) usually have the most severe symptoms develop.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.