A proposal to declare neurocysticercosis an international reportable disease
Neurocysticercosis is an infection of the nervous system caused by Taenia solium. It is the most important human parasitic neurological disease and a common cause of epilepsy in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, representing enormous costs for anticonvulsants, medical resources and lost production. Neurocysticercosis is a human-to-human infection, acquired by the faecal-enteric route from carriers of intestinal T. solium, most often in areas with deficient sanitation. Intestinal tapeworms cause few symptoms, but adult taeniae carried by humans release large numbers of infective eggs and are extremely contagious. Ingestion of poorly cooked pig meat infested with T. solium larvae results in intestinal taeniosis but not neurocysticercosis. With a view to hastening the control of taeniosis and neurocysticercosis we propose that neurocysticercosis be declared an international reportable disease. New cases of neurocysticercosis should be reported by physicians or hospital administrators to their health ministries. An epidemiological intervention could then be launched to interrupt the chain of transmission by: (1) searching for, treating and reporting the sources of contagion, i.e. human carriers of tapeworms; (2) identifying and treating other exposed contacts; (3) providing health education on parasite transmission and improvement of hygiene and sanitary conditions; and (4) enforcing meat inspection policies and limiting the animal reservoir by treatment of pigs. We believe that the first step required to solve the problem of neurocysticercosis is to implement appropriate surveillance mechanisms under the responsibility of ministries of health. Compulsory notification also has the major advantage of providing accurate quantification of the incidence and prevalence of neurocysticercosis at regional level, thus permitting the rational use of resources in eradication campaigns.