Medical Encyclopedia


Medical Encyclopedia

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Contents of this page:


Digestive system organs
Digestive system organs

Alternative Names    Return to top

Teniasis; Pork tapeworm; Beef tapeworm; Tapeworm; Taenia saginata; Taenia solium

Definition    Return to top

Taeniasis is a tapeworm infection.

Causes    Return to top

Tapeworm infection is acquired by eating raw or undercooked meat of infected animals. Beef generally carry Taenia saginata (T. saginata) while pigs carry Taenia solium (T. solium). In the human intestine, the larvae from the infected meat develop into the adult tapeworm -- which can grow to longer than 12 feet.

Tapeworms are segmented, with each segment capable of producing eggs. Eggs are dispersed individually or in groups and can pass out with the stool or through the anus.

Adults and children withT. solium pork tapeworm can, if appropriate hygiene is lacking, become self-infected by ingesting eggs from tapeworm that are picked up on their hands while wiping or scratching the anus.

Additionally, these individuals can expose other individuals to T. solium eggs, usually through food handling.

Symptoms    Return to top

Tapeworm infestation does not usually cause any symptoms. Infection is generally recognized when the infected person passes segments of proglottids in the stool, especially if the segment is moving.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

The stool will be examined for eggs of T. solium or T. saginata.

Segments of worm may be seen in stool.

Treatment    Return to top

Tapeworms are treated with medications taken by mouth, usually in a single dose. The drug of choice for tapeworm infections is niclosamide. Praziquantel and albendazole can also be used.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

With treatment, the tapeworm infection goes away.

Possible Complications    Return to top

Rarely, worms may cause obstruction of the intestine.

If T. solium larvae migrate to the brain, they can cause seizures and other neurological problems. This condition is called cysticercosis.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you pass something in your stool that looks like a white worm.

Prevention    Return to top

In the U.S., laws governing feeding practices and inspection of domestic food animals have largely eliminated the problem of tapeworm. Adequate cooking of meat destroys the tapeworm larvae and will prevent infection by tapeworm. Good hygiene and hand washing after using the toilet will prevent self-infection in a person already infected with tapeworms.

Update Date: 8/16/2007

Updated by: Arnold L. Lentnek, MD, Division of Infectious Disease, Kennestone Hospital, Marietta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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