The causal relationship between neurocysticercosis infection and the development of epilepsy - a systematic review

Lucy B Gripper, Susan C Welburn

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BACKGROUND: Neurocysticercosis (NCC) is a parasitic infection of the human central nervous system, the most common form of which involves infection of the brain parenchyma with the larval form of the Taenia solium tapeworm. A causal relationship between such an NCC infection and the development of epilepsy in infected individuals is acknowledged, in part supported by high levels of comorbidity in endemic countries worldwide.

METHODS: This study undertook a systematic review and critical analysis of the NCC-epilepsy relationship with the primary objective of quantifying the risk of developing epilepsy following NCC infection. A secondary aim was to analyse the proportions of NCC-associated epilepsy within different populations. Significant emphasis was placed on the importance of neuroimaging (CT or MRI) availability and use of clear guidelines for epilepsy diagnosis, in order to avoid overestimations of prevalence rates of either condition; a limitation identified in several previous studies.

RESULTS: A common odds ratio of 2.76 was identified from meta-analysis of case-control studies, indicating that an individual infected with NCC has almost a three times higher risk of developing epilepsy than an uninfected individual. Furthermore, meta-analysis of studies identified a common proportion of 31.54% of epilepsy cases associated with NCC infection which suggests that amongst epileptic populations in at risk countries, approximately one-third may be associated with NCC infection.

CONCLUSION: A significant finding was the lack of good clinical data to enable accurate determination of a causal relationship. Even studies that were included had noticeable limitations, including a general lack of consistency in diagnostics, and lack of accurate epidemiological data. This review highlights a need for consistency in research in this field. In the absence of reliable estimates of its global burden, NCC will remain of low priority in the eyes of funding agencies - a truly neglected disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31
JournalInfectious diseases of poverty
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2017


  • Journal Article
  • Review


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