Toxocariasis of the Nervous System

Abstract

Purpose

Toxocariasis is a helminthozoonosis caused by the infection of a human host by the larva of Toxocara spp., predominately involving Toxocara canis and Toxocara cati, which are common nematodes in dogs and cats, respectively. Human transmission occurs through contact with animals or by consumption of food contaminated with parasite’s eggs. The purpose of this article is to review the current knowledge regarding human neurotoxocariasis.

Methods

We conducted a systematic review of the existing literature concerning toxocariasis of the nervous system.

Results

Clinical spectrum of human toxocariasis varies widely from a subclinical course to significant organ morbidity. Clinical course depends on parasitic load, the migration route of the larvae and host response. Human neurotoxocariasis is a relatively rare entity yet associated with severe sequelae. Manifestations include meningitis (usually eosinophilic), encephalitis, myelitis, cerebellar vasculitis, space-occupying lesion, behavioral abnormalities, and optic neuritis. Even though valid diagnostic criteria are lacking, neurotoxocariasis should be suspected in patients with neurologic symptoms and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pleocytosis with eosinophilia, positive serology for anti-Toxocara antibodies, in serum and/or CSF, sterile CSF and clinical improvement after antihelminthic treatment. Neurotoxocariasis is treated by benzimidazole components, most frequently albendazole, corticosteroids, or diethylcarbamazine.

Conclusion

Parasite larvae migrate through tissues and are able to reach the nervous system causing neurotoxocariasis. Its clinical spectrum varies and includes myelitis, meningoencephalitis, brain abscess, and vasculitis. Neurotoxocariasis should always be suspected in patients with neurologic symptoms accompanied by eosinophilia in blood and/or CSF. Early diagnosis and treatment could prevent long-term neurologic impairment.

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Meliou, M., Mavridis, I.N., Pyrgelis, E. et al. Toxocariasis of the Nervous System. Acta Parasit. 65, 291–299 (2020). https://doi.org/10.2478/s11686-019-00166-1

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Keywords

  • Albendazole
  • Encephalitis
  • Nematode
  • Meningitis
  • Toxocariasis