10 Types of Parasitic Infections in the Brain and Their Impacts Can Be Fatal

10 Types of Parasitic Infections in the Brain and Their Impacts Can Be Fatal

Bumisuka.com – 10 Types of Parasitic Infections in the Brain and Their Impacts Can Be Fatal. Parasitic infections can attack almost all parts of the body. However, parasites that infect the central nervous system, including the brain, are potentially the most disruptive and damaging. This condition is not only occasionally fatal, but can also cause permanent disability.

Some parasitic infections involving the central nervous system can happen to anyone regardless of the underlying health. In contrast, opportunistic parasitic infections are infections that are more likely to occur when a person has a suppressed immune system due to cancer treatment, HIV, or another chronic medical condition.

1. Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection caused by the protozoa Toxoplasma gondii.

In some cases, the infection can spread to the brain and spinal cord, and the cysts can live there for years. However, the immune system keeps the parasites under control for the majority of people and no symptoms develop. However, in some cases of immune deficiency, especially AIDS, parasites can cause havoc in the brain. This brain parasite creates a circular abscess (shown on an MRI), and can have devastating neurological consequences, including seizures, focal neurological deficits, impaired consciousness, and death.

Reported by UNAIDS, toxoplasmosis is an AIDS-defining condition, which is a disease that is directly related to suppression of the immune system associated with HIV infection.

Toxoplasmosis is often associated with cat feces. However, this may be an exaggeration. In AIDS patients, there is no difference in risk based on exposure to cat feces. However, pregnant women should avoid contact with cat feces as infection can cause serious problems to the fetus.

2. Neurological parasitic infection

Maybe you are not ashamed to admit that you have a bacterial or viral infection to other people. However, many are embarrassed to admit they have a parasitic infection, such as a tapeworm infection. Somehow this seems more undesirable than other types of infection.

In fact, according to Stanford Medicine, a large percentage of the world’s population has some form of parasitic infection, and it is estimated that more than one billion people are infected with roundworms.

3. Cerebral malaria

Not exaggerating, but malaria is one of the most serious threats to human life throughout history. Over thousands of years, this disease has killed hundreds of millions of people, citing a 2002 article in the journal Nature.

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Quoting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cerebral malaria can cause changes in consciousness or seizures. Without treatment, the disease can lead to coma or death, while with treatment the death rate can be reduced to between 15 and 20 percent. Some survivors, particularly children, may have residual deficits such as blindness, deafness, seizures or cognitive problems.

4. Angiostrongyliasis

Angiostrongyliasis is an infection caused by the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis. Most common in Southeast Asia, but can also occur in the Caribbean. Parasites can be obtained from consuming undercooked snails, snails, crabs or shrimp.

The larvae of this parasite can migrate to the brain causing headaches, nausea, and a stiff neck. In contrast to many other parasitic infections of the central nervous system, no specific treatment is available and the infection usually resolves within two to eight weeks.

5. Neurocysticercosis

Neurocysticercosis occurs through faecal-oral transmission, or when you are exposed to human feces containing the eggs of the pork tapeworm Taenia solium. Hand washing and kitchen hygiene are very important so that eggs are not swallowed. Swallowing the eggs causes tapeworm larvae to grow in various human tissues, especially the brain and muscles. This can cause seizures and more.

Undercooked pork can contain tapeworm larvae, potentially causing tapeworm infections in the small intestine, with each worm releasing thousands of eggs. These eggs can cause neurocysticercosis.

When you eat tapeworm eggs (which have been released by the tapeworm carrier), the worm embryos can penetrate the intestines and travel to the central nervous system or spinal cord. Symptoms may include increased intracranial pressure, headaches, and seizures, as reported by the National Organization for Rare Disorders.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), neurocysticercosis is most common in areas where pigs are reared and where sanitation is poor, including large parts of South America and India, and is estimated to have infected at least 50 million people worldwide.

6. Trypanosomiasis

Trypanosomiasis, also called “sleeping sickness”, is caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei gambiense or Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense. Like malaria, this parasite is spread by an insect host.

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American trypanosomiasis is transmitted by killer ticks, while African trypanosomiasis is spread by the tsetse fly, which leaves two to five centimeter scars on the skin. A rash may also appear.

After some time, sometimes years, the parasites spread from the blood to the brain, causing meningoencephalitis and inflammation. Symptoms can include headaches, difficulty thinking, personality changes, and movement disorders such as tremors or ataxia (lack of coordination). Without treatment, this disease can be fatal.

7. Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis, also called bilharzia or bilharziasis, is caused by infection with tiny flatworms called flukes. Usually, these tiny leaf-shaped worms cause intestinal, liver, kidney, or bladder problems. Globally in 2017, nearly 99 million people were treated for schistosomiasis, which is often caught by bathing and swimming in fresh water lakes where these worms live, according to the WHO website.

According to the book Biological Agents, like many parasites, the life cycle of this organism is complex and involves many different stages. Humans acquire the infection through contact with water from freshwater lakes containing schistosomal larvae, which penetrate the skin and migrate into the blood vessels. Once in the blood vessels, they can travel throughout the body. The worms use suckers to attach to the walls of blood vessels, where they can live for up to 30 years.

About 240 million people are infected with schistosomiasis each year.

Most people feel no symptoms at all. Occasionally, an acute infection may appear one day after exposure with an itchy rash. Fever, chills, cough and muscle aches may appear one to two months later. Because schistosomes can spread to various organs, a variety of symptoms can occur.

The worms can spread to the spinal cord, causing myelopathy. This causes pain, urinary retention, and weakness in areas below the level of infection. Permanent paralysis may occur. In other cases, schistosomiasis can affect the brain, causing epilepsy or increased intracranial pressure.

Because these worms can live in the body for years, with the potential for serious problems at any time, infected people must be treated regardless of whether they have serious symptoms or not.


Echinococcus or hydatidosis is a tapeworm which in its early stages of life can cause cysts in living human tissues, including the brain and spinal cord. The parasites responsible include Echinococcus granulosus and Echinococcus multilocularis.

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You can get the infection by eating contaminated food. The disease is more common in Africa, Central Asia, southern South America, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Reported by Merck Manual, the early stages of infection are always asymptomatic, and it may be years before a cyst causes a problem. In the brain, cysts can cause seizures or increased intracranial pressure.

In the spinal cord, cysts can cause compression and paralysis of the spinal cord. However, central nervous system infections are relatively rare—usually cysts infect other organs, such as the lungs or liver.

9. Trichinellosis

Trichinellosis is an infection caused by roundworms (nematodes) and is most commonly found in undercooked pork (although it can be found in other types of meat).

The larvae invade the small intestinal wall and develop into adult worms. The worms then release eggs that grow into cysts in the muscles. When muscle is ingested by another animal, the cycle continues.

Severe trichinellosis can cause meningitis and encephalitis, the most common symptom being headache. The CT scan will show small cystic lesions all over the brain.

10. Paragonimiasis

Paragonimiasis is an infection with the parasitic flatworm Paragonimus which can enter the body through eating undercooked crab or crayfish. The cases are most often found in East Asian countries.

Parasites don’t often affect the central nervous system, but they can reach the brain either through the bloodstream or foramina at the base of the skull, according to a 2013 article in the Handbook of Clinical Neurology.

The adult parasites release inflammatory substances and tunnel through tissues, which can cause headaches, seizures, and strokes.

In many cases, the parasitic infection of the brain goes unnoticed. A high percentage of the population worldwide is living with worms or other parasites or other parasites, and this can affect the central nervous system. This condition must be taken and handled seriously.

Good personal hygiene, such as washing hands frequently and wearing gloves, washing fruit and vegetables thoroughly, and cooking meat properly can go a long way in reducing the risk of parasitic infections.

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