Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Infection with cestodes of the genus Taenia.

Alternative Names: Pork tapeworm, beef tapeworm, taenia saginata, cysticercosis, and taenia solium.

ICD-9-CM: 123.3.

T. saginata is also commonly known as beef tapeworm. T. solium is similarly referred to as pork tapeworm.

T. solium and T. saginata are distributed worldwide. T. saginata can be found worldwide in countries where cattle are raised for human consumption; T. solium where swine are raised for human consumption. The frequency has decreased in developed countries owing to stricter meat inspection, better hygiene and better sanitary facilities. The distribution of cysticercosis coincides with the distribution of T. solium. In Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo around 10% of the population is infected, in Madagascar even 16%.

Taeniasis is a tapeworm (cestode) infection acquired by the ingestion of raw or undercooked meat of infected animals. Although many species exist, two species, Taenia saginata and Taenia solium, cause pathology in humans. T. saginata is associated with the ingestion of the worm's larval form found in infected beef while T. solium is associated with that of infected pork.

Tapeworm infection is caused by eating the raw or undercooked meat of infected animals. Beef generally carry Taenia saginata ( T. saginata ). Pigs carry Taenia solium (T. solium) . In the human intestine, the young form of the tapeworm from the infected meat (larva) develops into the adult tapeworm -- which can grow to longer than 12 feet and can live for years.

Tapeworms have many segments. Each segment is able to produce eggs. Eggs are spread individually or in groups, and can pass out with the stool or through the anus.

Adults and children with pork tapeworm can infect themselves if they have poor hygiene. They can ingest eggs from tapeworm they pick up on their hands while wiping or scratching their anus or the surrounding skin.

Those who are infected can expose other people to T. solium eggs, usually through food handling.

People infected with adult taenia often are asymptomatic. Infected people may become aware of infection by noticing proglottid segments of the tapeworm in their feces. Symptoms of infection, if any, are general: nausea, intestinal upset, vague abdominal symptoms such as hunger pains, diarrhea and/or constipation, or chronic indigestion. Increased eosinophils may be a sign of infection.

A more severe form of taeniasis, cystercercosis, can occur upon ingestion of T. solium eggs found in the feces of infected humans. These eggs hatch in the small intestine and migrate to various tissues of the body and form cysts. T. saginata rarely causes cystercercosis.


Taeniasis may produce mild symptoms such as nausea, flatulence, weight loss, hunger sensations, diarrhea, and increased appetite, or no symptoms at all. Occasionally, worm segments may exit through the anus and appear on bedclothes.


Observation of tapeworm ova or body segments in stool allows diagnosis of a tapeworm infestation. Because ova aren't excreted continuously, confirmation may require multiple specimens.

Exams and Tests: Stool exam for eggs of T. solium or T. saginata , or bodies of the parasite CBC, including differential count.

Treatment Options:

Tapeworms are commonly treated with oral medicines and the medications that are normally given for the disease are Niclosamide, Albendazole or Praziquantel.

Administration of praziquantel cures up to 95% of patients. In beef, pork, and fish tapeworm infestation, the patient receives the drug once; in severe dwarf tapeworm infestation, twice (5 to 7 days each, spaced 2 weeks apart).

After drug treatment, all types of tapeworm infestation require follow-up stool specimens during the next 3 to 5 weeks to check for remaining ova or worm segments. Persistent infestation requires a second course of medication.

Prevention is based on strict meat inspection, health education, cooking pork and beef well, hygiene, and widespread sanitary installations.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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