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Anthelmintics for people with neurocysticercosis

Monk, Edward, Abba, Katharine and Ranganathan, LN (2021) 'Anthelmintics for people with neurocysticercosis'. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Vol 2021, Issue 6, CD000215.

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Neurocysticercosis is a parasitic infection of the central nervous system by the larval stage of the pork tapeworm and is a common cause of seizures and epilepsy in endemic areas. Anthelmintics (albendazole or praziquantel) may be given alongside supportive treatment (antiepileptics/analgesia) with the aim of killing these larvae (cysticerci), with or without corticosteroid treatment. However, there are potential adverse effects of these drugs, and the cysticerci may eventually die without directed anthelminthic treatment.

To assess the effects of anthelmintics on people with neurocysticercosis.

Search methods
We searched the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group Specialized Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, Embase, LILACS, the WHO ICTRP, and, up to 21 October 2020.

Selection criteria
Randomized controlled trials comparing anthelmintics and supportive treatment (+/‐ corticosteroids) with supportive treatment alone (+/‐ corticosteroids) for people with neurocysticercosis.

Data collection and analysis
Two review authors independently screened the title and abstract of all articles identified by the search. We obtained full‐text articles to confirm the eligibility of all studies that passed screening. One review author extracted data, which a second review author checked. Two review authors assessed the risk of bias of each trial and performed GRADE assessments. In cases of disagreement at consensus discussion stage between review authors, we consulted a third review author. We calculated risk ratios (RR) for dichotomous variables, with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for pooled data from studies with similar interventions and outcomes.

Main results
We included 16 studies in the review. Only two studies investigated praziquantel and did not report data in a format that could contribute to meta‐analysis. Most results in this review are therefore applicable to albendazole versus placebo or no anthelmintic.

The aggregate analysis across all participants with neurocysticercosis did not demonstrate a difference between groups in seizure recurrence, but heterogeneity was marked (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.78 to 1.14; 10 trials, 1054 participants; I2 = 67%; low‐certainty evidence). When stratified by participants with a single cyst or multiple cysts, pooled analysis suggests that albendazole probably improves seizure recurrence for participants with a single cyst (RR 0.61, 95% CI 0.4 to 0.91; 5 trials, 396 participants; moderate‐certainty evidence). All studies contributing to this analysis recruited participants with non‐viable, intraparenchymal cysts only, and most participants were children. We are uncertain whether or not albendazole reduces seizure recurrence in participants with multiple cysts, as the certainty of the evidence is very low, although the direction of effect is towards albendazole causing harm (RR 2.05, 95% CI 1.28 to 3.31; 2 trials, 321 participants; very low‐certainty evidence). This analysis included a large study containing a highly heterogeneous population that received an assessment of unclear risk for multiple 'Risk of bias' domains.

Regarding radiological outcomes, albendazole probably slightly improves the complete radiological clearance of lesions (RR 1.22, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.39; 13 trials, 1324 participants; moderate‐certainty evidence) and the evolution of cysts (RR 1.27, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.47; 6 trials, 434 participants; moderate‐certainty evidence).

More adverse events appeared to be observed in participants treated with either albendazole or praziquantel compared to those receiving placebo or no anthelmintic. The most commonly reported side effects were headache, abdominal pain, and nausea/vomiting.

Authors' conclusions
For participants with a single cyst, there was less seizure recurrence in the albendazole group compared to the placebo/no anthelmintic group. The studies contributing to this evidence only recruited participants with a non‐viable intraparenchymal cyst. We are uncertain whether albendazole reduces seizure recurrence for participants with multiple cysts. We also found that albendazole probably increases radiological clearance and evolution of lesions. There were very few studies reporting praziquantel outcomes, and these findings apply to albendazole only.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: QV Pharmacology > Anti-Inflammatory Agents. Anti-Infective Agents. Antineoplastic Agents > QV 253 Anthelmintics
QX Parasitology > Helminths. Annelida > QX 400 Cestoda
WL Nervous System > WL 300 General works (Include works on brain alone)
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > Clinical Sciences Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
Depositing User: Christianne Esparza
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2021 15:01
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 08:59


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