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J Helminthol. 2013 Sep;87(3):257-70. doi: 10.1017/S0022149X12000600. Epub 2012 Oct 10.

Parasitoses of the human central nervous system.

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Krankenanstalt Rudolfstiftung, Vienna, Austria.


Cerebral involvement in parasitoses is an important clinical manifestation of most of the human parasitoses. Parasites that have been described to affect the central nervous system (CNS), either as the dominant or as a collateral feature, include cestodes (Taenia solium (neurocysticerciasis), Echinococcus granulosus (cerebral cystic echinococcosis), E. multilocularis (cerebral alveolar echinococcosis), Spirometra mansoni (neurosparganosis)), nematodes (Toxocara canis and T. cati (neurotoxocariasis), Trichinella spiralis (neurotrichinelliasis), Angiostrongylus cantonensis and A. costaricensis (neuroangiostrongyliasis), Gnathostoma spinigerum (gnathostomiasis)), trematodes (Schistosoma mansoni (cerebral bilharziosis), Paragonimus westermani (neuroparagonimiasis)), or protozoa (Toxoplasma gondii (neurotoxoplasmosis), Acanthamoeba spp. or Balamuthia mandrillaris (granulomatous amoebic encephalitis), Naegleria (primary amoebic meningo-encephalitis), Entamoeba histolytica (brain abscess), Plasmodium falciparum (cerebral malaria), Trypanosoma brucei gambiense/rhodesiense (sleeping sickness) or Trypanosoma cruzi (cerebral Chagas disease)). Adults or larvae of helminths or protozoa enter the CNS and cause meningitis, encephalitis, ventriculitis, myelitis, ischaemic stroke, bleeding, venous thrombosis or cerebral abscess, clinically manifesting as headache, epilepsy, weakness, cognitive decline, impaired consciousness, confusion, coma or focal neurological deficits. Diagnosis of cerebral parasitoses is dependent on the causative agent. Available diagnostic tools include clinical presentation, blood tests (eosinophilia, plasmodia in blood smear, antibodies against the parasite), cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) investigations, imaging findings and occasionally cerebral biopsy. Treatment relies on drugs and sometimes surgery. Outcome of cerebral parasitoses is highly variable, depending on the effect of drugs, whether they are self-limiting (e.g. Angiostrongylus costaricensis) or whether they remain undetected or asymptomatic, like 25% of neurocysticerciasis cases.

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