Cysticercosis

Definition

Cysticercosis is an infection by a parasite called Taenia solium (T solium). It is a pork tapeworm that creates cysts in different areas in the body.

Causes

Cysticercosis is caused by swallowing eggs from T solium. The eggs are found in contaminated food. Autoinfection is when a person who is already infected with adult T solium swallows its eggs. This occurs due to improper hand washing after a bowel movement.

Risk factors include eating pork, fruits, and vegetables contaminated with T solium as a result of undercooking or improper food preparation. The disease can also be spread by contact with infected feces.

The disease is rare in the United States. It is common in many developing countries.

Symptoms

Most often, the worms stay in muscles and do not cause symptoms.

Symptoms that do occur depend on where the infection is found in the body:

Exams and Tests

Tests that may be done include:

Treatment

Treatment may involve:

If the cyst is in the eye or brain, steroids should be started a few days before other medicines to avoid problems caused by swelling during antiparasitic treatment. Not all people benefit from antiparasitic treatment.

Sometimes, surgery may be needed to remove the infected area.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook is good, unless the lesion has caused blindness, heart failure, or brain damage. These are rare complications.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you have any symptoms of cysticercosis, contact your health care provider.

Prevention

Avoid unwashed foods, do not eat uncooked foods while traveling, and always wash fruits and vegetables well.


Review Date: 12/13/2017
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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