Can tapeworm cysts enter the brain?

Yes. Sometimes the eggs of the pork tapeworm, which have been passed in human faeces, are swallowed by other humans (instead of by pigs) in food or water contaminated by infected human faeces. The eggs hatch in the child’s gut and are then carried by the bloodstream into all parts of the body including the brain. In the brain they form many small tape worm cysts (neurocysticercosis) which cause fits (convulsions). Tapeworm cysts in the brain are a common cause of fits in children that live in rural areas where toilets are not available. Good sanitation, safe water, hand-washing and washed vegetables will reduce the risk of neurocycticercosis.

Swallowed pork tapeworm eggs from human faeces result in tapeworm cysts in the brain.

The tapeworm cysts (cysticerci) are best identified in the brain by MRI or CT scanning. With time they become calcified and can be seen on X-ray. Cysts may also occur in muscles. Antibody tests are of little help. Treatment of neurocysticercosis in hospital is with steroids and Praziquantel.

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