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Ugandan Study Raises Concerns over Pig-Human Tapeworm

15 October 2014

UGANDA - New data indicate a growing prevalence in pigs in the Lake Kyoga area of central Uganda of the tapeworm, Taenia, which can cause epilepsy and death if it infects people.

Based on recent serosurveillance, the prevalence of porcine cysticercosis in the Lake Kyoga Basin area was 26 per cent, according to Zachary Nsadha of Makerere University in Kampala and co-authors there, the UK and Kenya. A previous survey, published in 2005, put the prevalence at nine per cent. 

This increasing prevalence in the disease indicates that there is currently no effective control of this parasite and that in this region of Uganda, at least and that porcine cysticercosis remains a neglected zoonotic disease, the researchers concluded.

In their paper in BMC Veterinary Research, they report that Taenia solium is a zoonotic helminth with the potential to cause life threatening epilepsy in people through the aberrant larval infection of the brain called neurocysticercosis (NCC).

The pig is the intermediate host for T. solium where the larval form, cysticercus cellulosae, normally develops after the pig eats eggs of the parasite. Humans are the definitive host where the adult tapeworm develops and are infected through the consumption of poorly cooked, infected meat.

T. solium has been acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UK Department for International Development (DFID) as being a neglected zoonotic disease, and was recently included in the WHO roadmap for control of neglected tropical diseases.

This neglect encompasses a lack of epidemiological data and a lack of validated, effective control strategies being adopted. Understanding the epidemiology of this parasite in the intermediate host is the first step towards designing suitable intervention strategies for the improvement of public health.

Nsadha and co-authorsundertook this study to provide an accurate and up-to-date estimate for the prevalence of porcine cysticercosis in the Lake Kyoga basin.

They analysed sera from 378 pigs with the HP10 Antigen Enzyme Linked Immunosorbant Assay (ELISA) and the prevalence was found to be 25.7 per cent (95 per cent confidence interval 21.0 to 30.0 per cent).

Previous sero-surveillance in this region, using the B158/B60 Ag Elisa, had indicated a prevalence of 8.6 per cent in 2005, indicating a dramatic increase in prevalence within a six-year period (J. Parasitol Res, Article ID 375493, 2009), concluded Nsadha and co-authors.


Nsadha Z., L.F. Thomas, E.M. Fèvre, G. Nasinyama, L. Ojok and C. Waiswa. 2014. Prevalence of porcine cysticercosis in the Lake Kyoga Basin, Uganda. BMC Veterinary Research. 10:239 doi:10.1186/s12917-014-0239-y

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