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Development of diagnostic tools based on markers of the immune response in blood or serum for neurocysticercosis

To date, a diagnosis of neurocysticercosis can only be made by medical imaging, nerve tissue biopsy or autopsy. These diagnostic means are either too expensive for the populations most affected by the disease, too invasive and dangerous, or obviously too late. Currently available serological tests can detect either antibodies or antigens of the larval form of the disease, but do not distinguish infection of the central nervous system from that of other tissues. In addition, the blood-brain barrier means that people with neurocysticercosis often have a negative serological test. 


Our team has been collaborating with a group in India since 2011 to identify markers of central nervous system infection in peripheral blood. We have identified 15 genes present on monocytes that show a higher expression among cases of epilepsy caused by neurocysticercosis compared to those with no obvious cause. Some of these genes also distinguish between cases of neurocysticercosis and cerebral tuberculosis. We have also obtained promising results regarding the presence of peptides or proteins that can also make such a distinction. We are continuing our research to better validate these genes and the identification of peptides or proteins in serum that could then be validated in communities. 

The problem of diagnosing brain infections is not a new one and we highlighted it in an article published in Nature in 2015.


Our work provides a better understanding of the pathology of neurocysticercosis and if a serological test could prove valid, it would allow us to identify cases of epilepsy caused by neurocysticercosis in communities and to treat cases without the families having to incur huge costs for the diagnosis alone. It would also give us a much better understanding of the risk factors associated specifically with infection of the central nervous system and not other tissues.  

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