Tellez-Zenteno JF, Hernandez-Ronquillo L. Epilepsy & Behavior 76(2017):146-150


This study discusses the high frequency of epilepsy in low-income countries caused by neurocysticercosis (NCC), a parasitic infection. NCC is caused by eating pork tapeworm eggs and can be spread from poor handwashing. The aim of the study is to critically review the published articles regarding epilepsy and NCC.

Description of Study

  • 85% of the global population of people with epilepsy are from developing countries in areas like Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. 
  • This article looks at NCC as a cause of epilepsy in these regions by highlighting limitations of other related research.

Summary of Study Findings

  • The lack of MRI technology and adequate diagnostic tests in developing countries may mean that other causes of epilepsy (such as brain injuries, tumors, or other infections) are not diagnosed as easily. This may lead to NCC being identified as the only cause of epilepsy when there may be other or multiple causes.  
  • Three studies, two from Brazil and one from Uruguay, found a low percentage of epilepsy caused by NCC (ranges from 0 to 13%). 
  • There is little known about the association between NCC and people with drug-resistant epilepsy.
  • NCC is becoming a public health concern for high-income countries as people migrate from developing countries. 
  • NCC needs more awareness and research. 

What Does This Mean?

  • Although this specific paper questions the relationship, it is established in scientific literature that NCC causes epilepsy and is spread because of unsanitary conditions. The disease can easily be prevented by washing hands before preparing food.
  • This study is a descriptive review that demonstrates more research needs to be conducted to support the idea that epilepsy in these countries come primarily from NCC. 
  • As we live in a global community, epilepsy caused by NCC may appear in countries like the United States. This is not a cause for alarm as long as we understand that the spread of NCC is easily prevented by cleanliness, proper food handling, and handwashing. 

Articles published in Epilepsy & Behavior, November 2017.

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Authored By: 
Dara Farhadi MS
Authored Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Joseph I. Sirven MD
Tuesday, January 23, 2018