Taenia multiceps coenurosis: a review

Antonio Varcasia, Claudia Tamponi, Fahad Ahmed, Maria Grazia Cappai, Francesca Porcu, Naunain Mehmood, Giorgia Dessì, Antonio Scala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Taenia multiceps is a taeniid cestode that inhabits the small intestines of both wild and domestic carnivores. The larval stage, Coenurus cerebralis, is typically found in the central nervous system (CNS) of a wide range of livestock and, to a lesser extent, in the extra-cerebral tissues of sheep and goats. This review covers all aspects of the life cycle of T. multiceps and its epidemiology, molecular characterization, pathogenesis, diagnosis, therapy, control and zoonotic potential. Coenurosis caused by the larval stage of T. multiceps has a worldwide distribution and is often fatal in intermediate hosts, which can result in substantial economic losses in livestock farming. Molecular characterization using the mitochondrial genes cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide dehydrogenase subunit 1 of different T. multiceps populations has revealed significant genetic variation and the presence of three major haplotypes. The disease mostly affects young sheep and is referred to as either acute or chronic coenurosis. Acute coenurosis occurs as a result of oncospheres migrating through the CNS, while chronic coenurosis occurs as a consequence of the coenurus maturing, which causes displacement and pressure atrophy of brain tissue. Non-cerebral coenurosis has been most commonly reported in goats. The best diagnostic method for cerebral coenurosis involves the interpretation of clinical signs with accurate localization of the cyst using diagnostic imaging techniques. A vaccine based on recombinant oncosphere antigens has proved to be an effective tool against T. multiceps infection in sheep. Additionally, use of anthelmintics during the parasite’s migration stages reduces the development of cysts in the sheep brain. Surgery is considered the most effective method for the treatment of cerebral coenurosis in small ruminants, but is often not carried out because of the limited finances of many sheep and goat breeders. However, coenurosis can also be controlled effectively through preventative measures, such as anthelmintic treatment of dogs and the proper disposal of intermediate host carcasses. The parasite is also zoonotic, and cases of coenurosis have been reported in humans with coenuri located in the brain, spinal cord and eyes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number84 (2022)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalParasites & Vectors
Early online date12 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished online - 12 Mar 2022


  • Taenia multiceps
  • Coenurosis
  • Cestodes
  • Sheep
  • Goats
  • Dog
  • Fox
  • Zoonosis


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