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Cysticercosis

Category: Illness or disabilities

Type

Involuntary

Introduction and description

 

Cysticercosis is infection caused by the young form of the pork tapeworm, specifically the eggs – thus it is a parasitical disease.  

When a person is infected with the adult worms, it has a different name – Taeniasis and is treated as a different disease, despite the fact that people who live with someone with the pork tapeworm and have Taeniasis have a greater risk of getting cysticercosis. 

It is made yet more complicated by the fact that if the tapeworm manages to reach the brain it is then called neurocysticercosis

High prevalences are reported in Mexico, Latin America, West Africa, Russia, India, Pakistan, North-East China, and Southeast Asia.  The frequency has according to Wikipedia ‘decreased in developed countries owing to stricter meat inspection, better hygiene and better sanitation of facilities’, but we believe this complacency is misplaced.  It may be being severely under diagnosed, as the damage to the brain that it causes appears to be being ignored and labelled with names such as dementia and schizophrenia – both of which it can cause.  Neurocysticercosis (NCC) is the most common helminthic infection of the nervous system and a frequent cause of reactive seizures and epilepsy worldwide. In many cases, multiple episodes of focal seizures related to an identifiable parenchymal brain cyst (and likely attributable to local damage) continue for years after the cyst resolves.

In Latin America, an estimated 75 million persons live in endemic areas and 400,000 people have symptomatic disease. Some studies have found the seroprevalence in areas of Guatemala, Bolivia, and Peru as high as 20 percent in humans. In Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo around 10% of the population is infected, in Madagascar 16%.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists neurocysticercosis as a neglected tropical disease. It estimates that about 50 million people worldwide have neurocysticercosis and that it causes about 50,000 deaths each year. Its most frequent clinical manifestations are seizures, intracranial hypertension, neurological deficits, and sometimes psychiatric manifestations. It is also responsible for more than 50% of the cases of late-onset epilepsy in developing countries. PMID:  25296005

Symptoms

The clinical manifestations of cysticercosis are highly variable both in kind and in severity. The period between initial infection and the onset of symptoms can also vary. People may have few or no symptoms for years as the eggs hatch and work their way round the body.  The diagnosis can be made by examining a cyst.   An increased number of a type of white blood cell, called eosinophils, in the cerebral spinal fluid and blood is also an indicator. 

Brain damage

 

A specific form called neurocysticercosis, which affects the brain, can cause neurological symptoms. Taking pictures of the brain with computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are most useful for the diagnosis of disease in the brain.  The term neurocysticercosis is generally accepted to refer to cysts in the parenchyma of the brain. Racemose neurocysticercosis refers to cysts in the subarachnoid space.  But the parasites can get everywhere:

Neurosurgical series of patients with intractable epilepsy and cross-sectional population-based studies have shown a robust association between NCC and hippocampal sclerosis (HS), …. Current information does not allow to define whether in patients with NCC, HS could result from recurrent seizure activity from a local or distant focus or from chronic recurrent inflammation. In either case, HS may become the pathological substrate of subsequent mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE).  PMID:  26659841

Overall they can cause numerous forms of brain damage – Dementia, Alzheimer’s, hydrocephalus, meningitis, epilepsy, encephalitis, Parkinson’s and so on.  For example:

A 70-year-old female presented with gait disturbance and dementia. Cerebrospinal fluid examination revealed mild aseptic meningitis. Magnetic resonance images showed multiple cystic lesions and mural nodules in some of the cysts in the cerebral parenchyma. Metrizamide computed tomography clearly demonstrated multiple intracisternal cysts. Some cysts were surgically excised and a ventriculoperitoneal shunt was implaced. Postoperatively, her gait disturbance and dementia disappeared. Histological examination revealed cysticercosis with viable larva. Ten months after the initial surgery, she presented with right hemiparesis due to enlargement of the remaining cysts in the left frontal lobe. These cysts were removed. Postoperative neurological examination showed slight right hemiparesis.  PMID:  8913084

Muscles

Cysticerci can develop in any voluntary muscles in humans. Invasion of muscle by cysticerci can cause myositis [Myositis is inflammation or swelling of the muscles], with fever, eosinophilia, and muscular pseudohypertrophy [muscle weakness], which initiates with muscle swelling and later progress to atrophy and fibrosis.  There are links between this parasite and forms of muscular dystrophy.

 

A 25 years old woman was admitted with a history of apparent hypertrophy of the calves, specially on the left, slight pain in the legs and difficulty in walking. …. Biopsy … revealed a cysticercus among inflammatory infiltrate and changes of the muscle fibers. Review of the literature disclosed 12 other reported cases. …. ‘Pseudohypertrophic myopathy’ due to cysticercosis has been found twice more common in males than in females. History of epilepsy and muscle pain occurs in about one half of the cases and muscle weakness in about one third of them.  PMID:  3833141

They can cause multiple sclerosis, MS has more than one cause, but it is clear these parasites can be one:

Two patients who consulted non neurologists about focal neurological symptoms. Neuroimaging findings revealed multiple lesions …... A diagnosis of neurocysticercosis was established, supported in one of the patients by positive serologic assays for cysticerci and antihelmintic therapy began to be administered. Observing the clinical evolution of the patients, … the patients were [also] finally diagnosed with MS.  PMID:  15152351

There are apparent links between Cysticercosis and fibromyalgia.  And there have been suggestions of links with Chronic Fatigue syndrome.

Nervous system

Cysticercosis involving the spinal cord most commonly presents with back pain and radiculopathy.  Radiculopathy means that the parasite is attacking the nerves, affecting one or more nerves so that they do not work properly and the person initially experiences pain and/or weakness, numbness, tingling or difficulty controlling specific muscles.  Needless to say once it has reached the nervous system it can make its way via the blood stream to any of the nerves and a whole host of nervous system diseases can result.

Eyes

In some cases, cysticerci may be found in the eyeball, extraocular muscles, and under the conjunctiva (subconjunctiva). Depending on the location, they may cause visual difficulties that fluctuate with eye position, retinal oedema, haemorrhage, decreased vision or even a visual loss and blindness.

Liver

High-resolution ultrasonography of the abdomen is the initial and most reliable modality for evaluation of hepatic cysticercosis. Medical therapy is the mainstay of treatment. We report a case of hepatic cysticercosis in a 28-year-old male who presented with right upper quadrant pain, fever, and jaundice. The article also describes the imaging patterns of hepatic cysticercosis based on different stages of evolution. PMID:  24806312

 

Kidneys

The parasites can attack the kidneys

[Kidney cysticercosis.- Wiwanitkit V. Urol Int. 2013;90(1):117. doi: 10.1159/000345296. Epub 2012 Nov 30. PMID: 23208199]

Skin

Subcutaneous cysts are in the form of firm, mobile nodules, occurring mainly on the trunk and extremities. Subcutaneous nodules are sometimes painful.  . In some cases, solid lumps of between one and two centimetres may develop under the skin.  After months or years these lumps can become painful and swollen and then apparently resolve, this does not mean the parasite has gone away, although if the immune system has been able to conquer them there may be cysts develop.  Occasionally they cause conditions such as urticarial cellulitis

There are many causes of urticaria, which may vary from infections to malignancy. Among the infections, infestations by cysticercosis (larval stage of the tapeworm called Taenia solium) is an important cause. The present report is of forty four years old female who presented with urticaria and swelling on face. The swelling was later diagnosed as cysticercosis by noninvasive ultrasonography.  PMID:  24760810

Overall

We could in fact continue.  These parasites can travel round the body and thus damage every organ and from the papers on PubMed they do.  We feel that the damage this parasite can do is not being treated with sufficient alarm.  They are a very serious pathogen with the ability to attack every organ

Cysticercosis, especially neurocysticercosis, is a major public health problem in India. We report a case of disseminated cysticercosis with extensive infiltration of the skin, central nervous system, skeletal muscles, eye, lung, and heart. A patient with extensive cutaneous cysticercosis must be thoroughly investigated for widespread internal organ involvement. PMID:  24685850

Causes

Within the genus Taenia, three species are human parasites: T. solium, T. saginata and a new uncommon species, T. asiatica, described recently in Asia.

T. saginata and T. solium live as adult tapeworms in human intestines, where they cause taeniasis. T. saginata is widely present worldwide, in all regions where cattle are bred. T. solium is endemic in many countries where livestock and consumption of pigs are common.

 

Cattle and pigs become infected by ingesting eggs emitted by humans into the environment and serve as the respective intermediate hosts of these helminths and host larval forms, or metacestodes or cysticerci.

Cysticerci develop into adult worms in the human intestines after a person has eaten contaminated raw or undercooked meat, contaminated water or vegetables.

In T. solium, eggs are also human contaminants. Humans, like swine, can develop cysticercosis after ingesting eggs with water or contaminated food, or via dirty hands.  In other words, the cause of human cysticercosis is the egg form of Taenia solium (often abbreviated as T. solium and also called pork tapeworm), which is transmitted through the oral-fecal route.

The eggs enter the intestine where they develop into larvae. If the larvae manage to enter the bloodstream and invade host tissues, they further develop into larvae called cysticerci. The cysticercus larva completes its development in about 2 months. It is a semi-transparent, opalescent white, and elongate oval in shape and may reach a length of 0.6 to 1.8 cm.

Normally the intestine with its intestinal flora, the stomach with its gastric acid and the mouth with its own bacterial flora serve as a first line of defence in preventing infection with this parasite.  To get an infection something must be going wrong with the body’s first and second line of defences – we know the pathogen involved, but why should some people manage to defeat this pathogen and others don’t.

Overall there are four main ROOT causes

  • Stress – and other negative emotions, which weaken the immune system and thus renders us unable to fight any excess bacteria that might arrive via contaminated food and water
  • Nutritional deprivation – which similarly weakens the immune system
  • Surgery   Removal of the gall bladder the source of bile acid, or surgery which damages our intestines, for example gastric band which reduces gut flora; or surgery which leaves us open temporarily to invaders, or plastic surgery.
  • Pharmaceuticals, toxins and heavy metals

The latter causes will now be explored in more detail.

Pharmaceuticals

Antacids and Proton Pump Inhibitors

 

The eggs of  this parasite should besensitive to the stomach's normal production of hydrochloric acid: even if the food or water is infected badly, the stomach acid should kill the parasites.  Stress and negative emotion – grief, trauma, and so on all suppress stomach acid as such this is why negative emotions destroy our first line of defence.  But so can pharmaceuticals.  If people take antacid medication or proton pump inhibitors, they are at higher risk of contracting disease from a smaller amount of organisms, since this type of medication inhibits normal gastric acid.

Antibiotics in farming and medicine

Antibiotics are used in farming, and have been used completely indiscriminately by the medical profession.  They are used in farming to keep animals kept in inhumane conditions alive long enough so they can be sold as food, they are also used in farming to fatten animals – providing proof, if proof were needed, that antibiotics are implicated in obesity of people as well as animals.   They are used as a ‘preventative’, when they have no ability to prevent anything.  They are used for viral illnesses when they have no ability to tackle viruses.  The mis-use of antibiotics is probably one of the medical and farming profession’s most negligent acts.  Antibiotics destroy the balance of the intestinal flora and the mouth flora, as suchthey consequently weaken the intestine’s ability to contain the parasite within the gut. 

An increasing number of human disease conditions, such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), type 2 diabetes, obesity, allergies and colorectal cancer are linked with altered microbiota composition. …. a normal, healthy gut microbiota can generate conditions in the gut that disfavour colonization of enteric [relating to or occurring in the intestines] pathogens. This is termed colonization-resistance (CR).  Upon disturbance of the microbiota, CR can be transiently disrupted, and pathogens can gain the opportunity to grow to high levels. This disruption can be caused by

  • exposure to antibiotics,
  • changes in diet,
  • application of probiotics and drugs, and
  • a variety of diseases.

Breakdown of CR can boost colonization by intrinsic pathogens or increase susceptibility to infections. One consequence of pathogen expansion is the triggering of inflammatory host responses and pathogen-mediated disease. PMID:  26185088


Once the intestines are compromised pathogens can destroy the lining of the intestines and enter the blood stream.  Nutritional deprivation serves to do the same thing, as it too can disrupt the healthy flora and reduce its protective role.

Immunosuppressants

Immunosuppressants suppress the immune system, which must be one of the most bizarre actions the medical profession undertake.  Suppression of the immune system increases the risk of infestation of the entire body. 

Mouthwashes

Mouthwashes with antibacterial properties affect the mouth's natural protection against pathogens

Anti-emetics 

Anti-emetics stop us vomiting out pathogens.  If we get an overdose of any pathogens, parasites or anything else and use anti-emetics, then the parasite simply enters the stomach and intestines.

Anti-diarrhoea medication

Diarrhoea is the natural flushing mechanism of the body, enabling it to remove parasites or other pathogens.  By using any medication that stops us pooing out pathogens we have effectively given them free access to do as much damage as they wish.

Antihistamines 

For example cough medicines or nasal sprays, that dry up a runny nose.  The runniness of noses and the sticky fluid used is designed to trap pathogens and prevent them from entering the body.  By using anti-histamines we remove our natural defences and parasites can enter via the nose, affecting the nose and via the olfactory organs enter the brain

Diuretics

Diuretics are intended to flush water away from the body.  But that water may be needed and be being used to flush pathogens away.  The body may actually be storing water in cells in order to have enough supplies to do the flushing.  Use a diuretic and your oedema – a symptom after all not a cause – may appear to be better.  On the other hand, the parasites now in your intestines may be breeding like crazy because the body has no water to flush them away.

Toxins -Pesticides, insecticides, defoliants and herbicides

There are now very clear links between the use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and the sorts of defoliants used to harvest peas and potatoes on non organic farms; and the destruction of the intestinal flora of animals – including humans.  As mentionned above if we destroy the flora we have destroyed our natural defences against this parasite.  There are a considerable number of published papers on this now, this is a recent one:

The gut microbiota: a major player in the toxicity of environmental pollutants? - Sandrine P Claus, Hervé Guillou & Sandrine Ellero-Simatos npj Biofilms and Microbiomes 2, Article number: 16003 (2016) doi:10.1038/npjbiofilms.2016.3

Exposure to environmental chemicals has been linked to various health disorders, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dysregulation of the immune and reproductive systems, whereas the gastrointestinal microbiota critically contributes to a variety of host metabolic and immune functions.
We aimed to evaluate the bidirectional relationship between gut bacteria and environmental pollutants and to assess the toxicological relevance of the bacteria–xenobiotic interplay for the host. We examined studies using isolated bacteria, faecal or caecal suspensions—germ-free or antibiotic-treated animals—as well as animals reassociated with a microbiota exposed to environmental chemicals.
The literature indicates that gut microbes have an extensive capacity to metabolise environmental chemicals that can be classified in five core enzymatic families (azoreductases, nitroreductases, β-glucuronidases, sulfatases and β-lyases) unequivocally involved in the metabolism of >30 environmental contaminants.
There is clear evidence that bacteria-dependent metabolism of pollutants modulates the toxicity for the host. Conversely, environmental contaminants from various chemical families have been shown to alter the composition and/or the metabolic activity of the gastrointestinal bacteria, which may be an important factor contributing to shape an individual’s microbiotype.
…. pollutant-induced alterations of the gut bacteria are likely to contribute to their toxicity. In conclusion, there is a body of evidence suggesting that gut microbiota are a major, yet underestimated element that must be considered to fully evaluate the toxicity of environmental contaminants.


Prevention

Avoid the causes

From the above you can see what causes the problems, thus you are in a position to be able to avoid these sources of illness.

Go organic

Consumption of organic foods may help to reduce exposure to toxins such as pesticide, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the bacteria used in farming.

Sanitation and cleanliness

Cysticercosis is usually acquired in the first place  by eating food or drinking water contaminated by tapeworm eggs from human faeces. Among foods, uncooked vegetables are the major source. The tapeworm eggs are present in the faeces of a person infected with the adult worms, a condition known as taeniasis.  People who live with someone with the pork tapeworm thus have a greater risk of getting cysticercosis.

Infection can be effectively prevented by personal hygiene and sanitation: this includes cooking meat well, proper toilets and sanitary practices, and improved access to clean water.

Treatment

Prevention is better than cure, but avoiding stress, relaxation, meditation and mindfulness, all help to keep the immune system working.  As it says above, go organic and eat well, to ensure the body restores its intestinal floral balance and defences.

There are pharmaceuticals – but the side-effects can be most unpleasant and they are not guaranteed to find all the parasites if they are in your body.  Only your body can help you fight these and as a consequence you need to ensure you give the body all the nutrients, sleep, relaxation and help its needs to work for you.

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