Neurocysticercosis in Europe: Still a public health concern not only for imported cases

Acta Trop. 2013 Oct;128(1):18-26. doi: 10.1016/j.actatropica.2013.06.020. Epub 2013 Jul 17.


Neurocysticercosis (NCC), a parasitic disease caused by the larvae of the cestode Taenia solium, is the most frequent parasitic disease of the central nervous system (CNS) in the world and the leading cause of secondary epilepsy in Central and South America, East and South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. It is endemic in many low- and middle-income countries of the world. Due to increased travels and immigration, NCC may be diagnosed also in non-endemic areas. In fact, tapeworm carriers from endemic zones can transmit infection to other citizens or arrive already suffering NCC. This phenomenon, occurred first in USA during the last 30 years, has been also observed in Europe, as well as in Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and Muslim countries of the Arab World. Actually, concerning Europe, although, in some areas only few cases have been described, nevertheless the prevalence of NCC may be considered increasing, especially in Spain and Portugal. We reviewed the literature on the burden of NCC in Europe, by a search of PubMed regarding papers from 1970 to present. We only considered on PubMed published and available papers in English, French, Italian, and Spanish, the languages understood by the authors. One hundred seventy six cases of NCC have been reported in seventeen European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, and Croatia, Norway, Switzerland). A particular epidemic situation is present in Spain and Portugal. In fact, we collected data that show, in Spain, an increasing incidence both in immigrated patients and in those which were born in certain Spanish geographical areas and, in Portugal, prevalence similar to that observed in endemic areas. Globally, it is clear that as a result of increased migrations and travels from endemic regions, NCC is becoming an emerging public health problem in high-income countries, particularly affecting communities where hygiene conditions are poor and sub-sequentially the parasite can spread from human to human through eggs even in absence of a travel to the tropics. NCC is a preventable disease, it derives that it's important to acquire a great consciousness of the epidemiology and to implement accurate surveillance systems.

Keywords: Autochthonous cases; CNS; Epidemiology; Europe; Imported cases; NCC; Neurocysticercosis; central nervous system; neurocysticercosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Neurocysticercosis / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Topography, Medical
  • Travel