The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded a $988,000 contract to aptamer developer Aptagen to develop a chemical antibody-based test for human carriers of the pork tapeworm Taenia solium.
The test will be used to help prevent neurocysticercosis, the leading cause of adult-onset epilepsy in the developing world. Eating undercooked pork or drinking contaminated water containing T. solium eggs causes the infection cysticercosis. When these eggs pass through a person's intestines and into the tissues, they form cysts. Neurocysticercosis occurs when those cysts form in the brain, causing severe neurological problems.
An estimated 50,000 people die annually from neurocysticercosis, and the number of cases in the U.S. and Canada has risen due to globalization. As primary carriers of the pork tapeworm, humans can unknowingly transmit the infection, making it vital that an effective field-capable test be developed to control and eliminate T. solium.