Neurocysticercosis is caused when people ingest pork that has gone bad and is the root cause of several types of seizures. In a new study that was published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine have discovered that Substance P is the culprit of neurocysticerosis.
Neurocysticercosis is the main reason why people develop acquired epilepsy in developing countries, and it’s on the rise in the US. It causes seizures, headaches, and about 400,000 people in Latin America alone have it.
The pork tapeworm (Taenia solium) infects people when undercooked or fecally-contaminated pork gets into stomachs, where gastric acid allows the larvae to migrate throughout the body and become cysts. These oncospheres can migrate into muscles, eyes, and the brain, where they will cause inflammation.
Substance P is a neuropeptide that’s known to be involved with inflammation and it was found in infected patients. Mice that were injected with this peptide suffered severe seizures. A drug that blocks the peptide prevented the seizures. Now the drug needs to be tested on humans. The infection still has to be treated, but the seizures could be mitigated through drugs.
Reference: “Substance P Causes Seizures in Neurocysticercosis” by Prema Robinson, Armandina Garza, Joel Weinstock, Jose A. Serpa, Jerry Clay Goodman, Kristian T. Eckols, Bahrom Firozgary and David J. Tweardy, 9 February 2012, PLoS Pathogens.