Cysticercosis and epilepsy in rural Tanzania: a community-based case-control and imaging study

Hunter E, Burton K, Iqbal A, Birchall D, Jackson M, Rogathe J, Jusabani A, Gray W, Aris E, Kamuyu G, Wilkins PP, Newton CR, Walker R
Trop Med Int Health. 2015;20

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OBJECTIVE: To assess the contribution of neurocysticercosis (NCC) to the burden of epilepsy in a rural Tanzanian population. METHODS: We identified adult people with epilepsy (PWE) in a door-to-door study in an established demographic surveillance site. PWE and community controls were tested for antibodies to Taenia solium, the causative agent of NCC, and all PWE were offered a computed tomography (CT) head scan. Data on household occupancy and sanitation, pig-keeping and pork consumption were collected from PWE and controls and associations with epilepsy were assessed using chi-square or Fisher's exact tests. RESULTS: Six of 218 PWE had antibodies to T. solium (2.8%; 95% CI 0.6-4.9), compared to none of 174 controls (Fisher's exact test, P = 0.04). Lesions compatible with NCC were seen in eight of 200 CT scans (4.0%; 95% CI 1.3-6.7). A total of 176 PWE had both investigations of whom two had positive serology along with NCC-compatible lesions on CT (1.1%; 95% 0.3-4.0). No associations between epilepsy and any risk factors for NCC were identified. CONCLUSIONS: Neurocysticercosis is present in this population but at a lower prevalence than elsewhere in Tanzania and sub-Saharan Africa. Insights from low-prevalence areas may inform public health interventions designed to reduce the burden of preventable epilepsy.