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Tapeworm-Linked Seizures May Be Rising in U.S., Doctors Say
Date:4/8/2013

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- Tapeworm infection in the brain that can trigger seizures is a growing health concern, doctors say.

But the infection, which leads to swelling in the brain, is usually treatable with medication, according to a leading association of neurologists.

Estimated cases of neurocysticercosis, as the tapeworm infection is called, range from 40,000 to 160,000 each year in the United States, said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "It's been around a long time, affecting people living in severe poverty, but the disease is not well-studied or understood," Hotez said.

Texas is one area of the country with many cases. "The disease has now become a leading cause of epilepsy in Houston," Hotez said. "Every [week], we have patients come into our tropical medicine clinic with it."

Concerns about an apparent increase of neurocysticercosis within the United States led the American Academy of Neurology to issue treatment guidelines for doctors and patients in the April 9 issue of the journal Neurology.

The recommendations are based on a review of 10 studies published between 1980 and 2010 that evaluated so-called cysticidal drugs for treatment of tapeworm infections. The infection involves infestation of the brain with the larvae of the Taenia solium tapeworm. In severe cases, it can cause death.

Tapeworm infection is common in Third World countries because of inadequate sanitation and hygiene, and an estimated 2 million people worldwide have epilepsy as a result. The good news is that good hygiene and food preparation can prevent it.

People develop the tapeworm infection when they consume improperly cooked meat, such as pork, or any food or drink that contains the tapeworm eggs or larvae (also known as cysts). Touching the fecal matter of an infected
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