Background: Taenia solium cysticercosis/taeniosis is emerging as a serious public health and economic problem in many developing countries. This study was conducted to determine prevalence and risk factors of human T. solium infections in Mbeya Region, Tanzania.
Methods and findings: A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 13 villages of Mbozi district in 2009. Sera of 830 people (mean 37.9±11.3 years (SD); 43% females) were tested for circulating cysticerci antigen (Ag-ELISA) and antibody (Ab-ELISA). A subset of persons found seropositive by Ag-ELISA underwent computed tomography (CT) scan of the brain for evidence of neurocysticercosis. Stool samples from 820 of the same participants were tested for taeniosis by copro-antigens (copro-Ag-ELISA) and formol-ether concentration technique. Cases of T. solium taeniosis were confirmed serologically by EITB assay (rES38). A questionnaire was used for identification of risk factors. Active cysticercosis by positive Ag-ELISA was found in 139 (16.7%) persons while anti-cysticercal antibodies were detected in 376 (45.3%) persons by Ab-ELISA. Among 55 persons positive for Ag-ELISA undergoing CT scan, 30 (54.6%) were found to have structures in the brain suggestive of neurocysticercosis. Using faecal analysis, 43 (5.2%) stool samples tested positive for taeniosis by copro-Ag-ELISA while Taenia eggs were detected in 9 (1.1%) stool samples by routine coprology. Antibodies specifically against adult T. solium were detected in 34 copro-Ag-ELISA positive participants by EITB (rES38) indicating T. solium taeniosis prevalence of 4.1%. Increasing age and hand washing by dipping in contrast to using running water, were found associated with Ag-ELISA seropositivity by logistic regression. Gender (higher risk in females) and water source were risk factors associated with Ab-ELISA seropositivity. Reported symptoms of chronic severe headaches and history of epileptic seizures were found associated with positive Ag-ELISA (p≤0.05).
Conclusion: The present study indicates T. solium infection in humans is highly endemic in the southern highlands of Tanzania.