BACKGROUND: The epidemiology of human cysticercosis and neurocysticercosis, caused by the larval stage of the pork tapeworm Taenia solium, is not well known in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Within a multicenter etiological and diagnostic study conducted by the NIDIAG consortium ("Better Diagnosis for Neglected Infections") and investigating several challenging syndromes, we consecutively evaluated from 2012 to 2015 all patients older than 5 years presenting with neurological disorders (neurology cohort) and with fever > 7 days (persistent fever cohort) at the rural hospital of Mosango, province of Kwilu, DRC. In both cohorts, etiological diagnosis relied on a systematic set of reference laboratory assays and on pre-established clinical case definitions. No neuroimaging was available in the study hospital. In this study, we determined the frequency of T. solium infection in both cohorts and explored in the neurology cohort its association with specific neurological presentations and final etiological diagnoses.
METHODS: We conducted a post-hoc descriptive and analytic study on cysticercosis in the neurology and persistent fever cohorts, based on the presence in serum samples of circulating T. solium antigen using the B158/B60 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and of cysticercosis IgG using the LDBIO Cysticercosis Western Blot IgG assay.
RESULTS: For the neurology cohort, 340 samples (of 351 enrolled patients) were available for analysis (males: 46.8%; mean age: 38.9 years). T. solium antigen positivity was found in 43 participants (12.6%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 9.3-16.7%), including 9 of 60 (15%) patients with epilepsy. Among the 148 samples available from the persistent fever cohort (males: 39.9%; mean age: 19.9 years), 7 were positive in the T. solium antigen ELISA (4.7%; 95% CI 1.9-9.5%; P = 0.009 when compared to the neurology cohort). No significant association was found within the neurology cohort between positivity and clinical presentation or final diagnoses. Of note, the IgG antibody-detecting assay was found positive in only four (1.3%) of the participants of the neurology cohort and in none of the persistent fever cohort.
CONCLUSIONS: T. solium antigen positivity was found in at least 10% of patients admitted with neurological disorders in the Kwilu province, DRC, with no specific pattern of presentation. Further neuroimaging studies should be used to confirm whether neurocysticercosis is prevalent in this region.