Porcine Cysticercosis is caused by Taenia solium. Taenia spp. are long, segmented, parasitic tapeworms (family Taeniidae, subclass Cestoda). These parasites have an indirect life cycle, cycling between a definitive and an intermediate host. Humans are the definitive hosts for Taenia solium. People can also act as intermediate hosts and develop human cysticercosis or neurocysticercosis when the central nervous system is involved. Neurocysticercosis is the most common parasitic infection of the human nervous system and the most frequent preventable cause of epilepsy in the developing world.
Cysticercosis is most common in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. It is particularly prevalent in rural areas where domestic pigs are allowed to roam freely.
Cysticercosis infections are a serious public health and agricultural problem in many poorer countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Worldwide there are around five million human cases and 50,000 human deaths reported each year. Cysticercosis also causes significant economic losses to pig farmers.
The definitive hosts (humans) for Taenia solium are infected when they ingest tissues from the intermediate host (pig) that contain larvae (cysticerci). Intermediate hosts (pigs or humans) become infected when they ingest eggs that were shed in the faeces of the definitive host.
T. solium cysticerci are typically located in the striated muscle and brain. The symptoms of porcine cysticercosis are caused mainly by inflammation associated with degenerating larvae and by the mechanical effects of the parasites. Human cysticercosis is usually asymptomatic unless larvae invade the CNS. Neurocysticercosis in humans can cause severe headaches, blindness, convulsions, epileptic seizures and can be fatal.
Increasing awareness about the risk factors and measures to address public hygiene, especially through making the use of adequate latrines is essential to combat this parasitic disease. Antiparasitic medications are available and a vaccine against Taenia solium was developed for pigs. The vaccination and treatment method combined with human mass drug administration (MDA) and health education provides a promising strategy to break the life cycle of the tapeworm that is transmitted to humans, thus contributing to control measures for human neurocysticercosis.
For further information, view our PC product development work.