Taenia solium taeniasis/cysticercosis: From parasite biology and immunology to diagnosis and control

Adv Parasitol. 2021;112:133-217. doi: 10.1016/bs.apar.2021.03.003. Epub 2021 Apr 8.


Infection with the pork tapeworm (Taenia solium) is responsible for a substantial global burden of disease, not only restricted to its impact on human health, but also resulting in a considerable economic burden to smallholder pig farmers due to pig cysticercosis infection. The life-cycle, parasitology and immunology of T. solium are complex, involving pigs (the intermediate host, harbouring the larval metacestode stage), humans (the definitive host, harbouring the adult tapeworm, in addition to acting as accidental intermediate hosts) and the environment (the source of infection with eggs/proglottids). We review the parasitology, immunology, and epidemiology of the infection associated with each of the T. solium life-cycle stages, including the pre-adult/adult tapeworm responsible for human taeniasis; post-oncosphere and cysticercus associated with porcine and human cysticercosis, and the biological characteristics of eggs in the environment. We discuss the burden associated, in endemic settings, with neurocysticercosis (NCC) in humans, and the broader cross-sectoral economic impact associated both with NCC and porcine cysticercosis, the latter impacting food-value chains. Existing tools for diagnostics and control interventions that target different stages of the T. solium transmission cycle are reviewed and their limitations discussed. Currently, no national T. solium control programmes have been established in endemic areas, with further work required to identify optimal strategies according to epidemiological setting. There is increasing evidence suggesting that cross-sectoral interventions which target the parasite in both the human and pig host provide the most effective approaches for achieving control and ultimately elimination. We discuss future avenues for research on T. solium to support the attainment of the goals proposed in the revised World Health Organisation neglected tropical diseases roadmap for 2021-2030 adopted at the 73rd World Health Assembly in November 2020.

Keywords: Diagnosis; Human cysticercosis; Human taeniasis; Neurocysticercosis; Oxfendazole; Porcine cysticercosis; Praziquantel; Risk factors; Taenia solium; Vaccination.

MeSH terms

  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Central America / epidemiology
  • Cysticercosis / diagnosis
  • Cysticercosis / epidemiology
  • Cysticercosis / parasitology
  • Cysticercosis / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • South America / epidemiology
  • Swine
  • Swine Diseases / diagnosis
  • Swine Diseases / epidemiology
  • Swine Diseases / parasitology
  • Swine Diseases / prevention & control
  • Taenia solium / growth & development
  • Taenia solium / immunology
  • Taenia solium / physiology*
  • Taeniasis / diagnosis
  • Taeniasis / epidemiology
  • Taeniasis / parasitology*
  • Taeniasis / prevention & control