The neurology of parasitic diseases and malaria
Spinal Cord Diseases
Neurologists should be aware of parasitic diseases occurring in travelers and recent migrants because the world has become a global village as a result of tourism and immigration. Global warming is changing the distribution of diseases formerly confined to the tropics. The two most common parasitic diseases of the nervous system are Plasmodium falciparum malaria presenting as a febrile encephalopathy with normal CSF and neurocysticercosis causing seizures with focal MRI lesions or with intracranial hypertension. Numerous parasites may cause larva migrans with eosinophilic meningitis. Spinal cord involvement is the signature presentation of schistosomiasis. Trypanosoma cruzi, the agent of Chagas disease in the Americas, may cause myocardiopathy and embolic stroke. Sleeping sickness remains the most common manifestation of African trypanosomiasis. These conditions are challenging to diagnose unless a history of travel is elicited. Prospective travelers should be advised of preventive measures to avoid potentially severe infections of the nervous system.