Almost one-third of the world's epilepsy cases are caused by an avoidable food-borne parasite, according to unpublished research commissioned by the WHO.
Neurocysticercosis (NCC), an infection of the brain, has long been known to cause epilepsy and seizures, but the size of the link has surprised experts.
Common in areas with poor sanitation, NCC is the result of infection with the eggs of Taenia solium tapeworms. Eating raw or undercooked meat from pigs infected with T. solium larvae allows tapeworms to develop in the gut and shed eggs which are passed in human faeces. The eggs are ingested, either by pigs or humans, through contaminated food. They then mature into larvae which travel to the brain and cause cysts, inducing seizures.
The new review of global data by researchers at the Texas A&M University in the US is the first to investigate the global burden of epilepsy resulting from NCC infection. The researchers reviewed over 500 articles on NCC published between 1990 and 2008.