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11 Nov, 2014

Pork tapeworm infection a leading cause of epilepsy – UN health agency

United Nations, UN News Centre, 10 November 2014 – The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today said neurocysticercosis – transmitted after consuming undercooked pork or water contaminated by tapeworm eggs – is “the most frequent preventable cause of epilepsy in the developing world.” WHO explained that taeniasis is the intestinal infection of the adult tapeworm and when left untreated, a more serious condition develops as larvae invade body tissues.

Photo: FAO/Pius Ekpei

“When larvae build up in the central nervous system, muscles, skin and eyes, it leads to neurocysticercosis – the most severe form of the disease and a common cause of seizures worldwide.”

According to the UN health agency, 50 million people are affected by epilepsy and more than 80 per cent of them live in the developing world.

“Thorough case finding, better diagnosis and treatment, and public health information campaigns are crucial to effectively control and break the life cycle of the parasite,” WHO said.

“Neurocysticercosis is the most frequent preventable cause of epilepsy in the developing world,” WHO said. “It is a common infection of the human nervous system and a growing public health concern.”

“Humans become infected after consuming undercooked food, particularly pork, or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs, or through poor hygiene practices,” it said.