What is taeniasis?
Taeniasis is an infection of the digestive tract by adult
tapeworms. People can get the infection from b eef, which
generally carries the tapeworm Taenia saginata, or pigs, which
carry Taenia solium.
What are the symptoms of taeniasis? What does taeniasis cause?
Most cases are have no symptoms and in many cases patients become
aware of the infection by noting proglottids (segments of
tapeworm) in stools or mobile Taenia saginata
proglottids emerging from the anus. If they occur, symptoms are
mild and non-specific and include abdominal pain, digestive
disorders, excessive appetite or loss of appetite, weakness and
loss of weight.
How is taeniasis spread? How do people get taeniasis?
Taeniasis results from eating raw or undercooked pork or beef
contaminated with the larval stage of the pork or beef tapeworm.
The larvae from the infected meat develop in the human intestine
into adult tapeworms. The proglottids of the tapeworm mature and
become filled with eggs. Proglottids detach and eggs are then
passed in the feces. The eggs can live in the environment for
months or even years. Cattle and pigs become infected when they
ingest vegetation containing the eggs. The eggs hatch, develop
into the larval stage, and become embedded into the animal's
Person-to-person transmission may occur in Taenia solium
infection, but the result is cysticercosis rather than tapeworm
What is cysticercosis? How is it different from taeniasis?
While taeniasis is an infection by the adult beef or pork
tapeworms, cysticercosis is an infection by the larval stage of
the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium. Cysticercosis commonly occurs
when humans accidentally ingest Taenia solium eggs. Once the eggs
hatch in the human's small intestine, the larvae penetrate the
lining of the small intestine and enter the blood stream. From
here the larvae can be distributed to any organ in the body, where
they form cysts. Cysts are found most frequently in skin, skeletal
muscle, heart, eye, and central nervous system (CNS).
Neurocysticercosis, the infection of the human CNS by Taenia
solium larvae, is the major cause of acquired epilepsy in the
Many cases of cysticercosis probably result from a person
ingesting eggs that are produced by a tapeworm living in his or
her own intestinal tract. People can also be infected via food or
water contaminated with eggs, or via eggs present in a household
or work environment.
Due to increased immigration from Central America and travel to
areas where cysticercosis is found, cysticercosis is on the rise
in the US, especially in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas,
How common is taeniasis?
Approximately 50 million persons are infected with both parasites
worldwide; some 50,000 die of cysticercosis annually. In the US,
laws governing feeding practices and inspection of domestic food
animals have largely eliminated the problem of tapeworm. An
estimated 1,000 new cases of cysticercosis are diagnosed in the US
How do I protect myself from taeniasis?
Adequate cooking of meat destroys the tapeworm larvae and will
prevent infection by the tapeworm. Good hygiene and hand washing
after using the toilet will prevent self-infection in a person
with tapeworms. Infection in animals is prevented by protection of
the animal feed or grazing areas from contamination by human
How do I protect others from taeniasis?
Infected individuals can expose other individuals to Taeniasis
solium eggs, often via food handling. Refrain from handling food
if you know you may be infected and resume this activity only
after your healthcare provider has instructed you to do so.
Infected individuals can prevent infection in animals by making
sure that fecal contamination of animal food or grazing areas does
What do I do if I think I have taeniasis?
Consult your healthcare provider.
How are taeniasis infections diagnosed?
Identification of segments, eggs, or head of the parasite in the
feces diagnoses taeniasis, but is not possible during the first 3
months following infection, prior to development of adult
tapeworms. The doctor may ask you to provide additional stool
samples during a time interval. Persons who are found to have eggs
or proglottids in their feces could be evaluated with a blood test
since self-infection, and cysticercosis, can occur.
How is taeniasis treated? Tapeworms are treated with oral medications . Surgery
is sometimes necessary to treat cysticercosis cases in the eyes,
cases that are not responsive to drug treatment, or to reduce
Should I worry about taeniasis when I
travel out of the country?
Taeniasis is found worldwide. Taenia saginata is prevalent in
regions where cattle are raised: Africa, Middle East, Central and
South America, Europe, and Asia. Taenia solium is prevalent in
Central and South America (especially in Mexico), Africa,
Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Micronesia.
When traveling in developing countries or where taeniasis has been
reported, avoid eating raw or undercooked pork and other meats;
donít eat meat of pigs that are likely to be infected with the
tapeworm; and, wash hands with soap and water after using the
toilet and especially before handling food.
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