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Acta Trop. 2003 Jun;87(1):79-86.

Immunodiagnostic tools for human and porcine cysticercosis.

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Department of Animal Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nationalestraat 155, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium.


The development of improved immunodiagnostic tools has contributed to our knowledge on the importance of taeniosis/cysticercosis by enabling sero-epidemiological surveys and community-based studies to be carried out. Immunodiagnostic techniques include detection methods for specific antibodies and for circulating parasite antigen in serum or cerebrospinal fluid. The antigens used in immunoblot and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for antibody detection have evolved from crude extracts to highly purified specific fractions and recombinant antigens of the glycoprotein family, increasing both the sensitivity and the specificity of the tests. The application of ELISA for the detection of circulating parasite antigens may present some diagnostic advantages since it demonstrates not only exposure but also active infections. Until now only a few of the current techniques have been standardised and fully validated, making comparisons between studies difficult. The lack of a gold standard is a serious drawback. In surveys on cysticercosis, antibody detection systems have been useful in identifying the risk factors associated with transmission of Taenia solium; a high seroprevalence in a community indicates a "hot spot" where preventive and control measures should be applied. In contrast, the potential use of immunodiagnostic tools to identify cases of neurocysticercosis (NCC) in man is subject to debate. The correlation between a positive serology and neurological symptoms and/or lesions indicative for NCC on neuro-imaging techniques is poor to fair in most studies. This may be explained by the unpredictable clinical outcome of the infection and the variable immunological response of the human host to infection. A major problem is that in many developing countries, neuro-imaging methods are inaccessible and/or too expensive for the rural population at risk. Under these conditions, serology may provide the only tool for diagnosis of the infection.

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