Cysticercosis is an infection by a parasite called Taenia solium (T. solium), a pork tapeworm that creates cysts in different areas in the body.
Cysticercosis is caused by swallowing eggs from T. solium, which are found in contaminated food. Autoinfection is when a person is already infected with adult T. solium, then swallows eggs following 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, but is common in many developing countries.
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:
Tests that may be done include:
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 patients benefit from antiparasitic treatment.
Sometimes surgery may be needed to remove the infected area.
The outlook good, unless the lesion has caused blindness, heart failure, or brain damage. These are rare complications.
If you have any symptoms of cysticercosis, contact your health care provider.
Avoid unwashed foods, do not eat uncooked foods while traveling, and always wash fruits and vegetables well.
White AC Jr., Brunetti E. Cysticercosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 362.
Updated 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. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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