An intestinal parasitic worm, adults of which are found in the intestine of vertebrates; the term is commonly restricted to members of the class Cestoidea. Tapeworms consist of a scolex, variously equipped with spined or sucking structures by which the worm is attached to the intestinal wall of the host, and strobila having several to many proglottids that lack a digestive tract at any stage of development. The ovum, entering the intestine of an appropriate intermediate host, hatches and the hexacanth penetrates the gut wall and develops into a specific larval form (e.g., cysticercoid, cysticercus, hydatid, strobilocercus), which develops into an adult when the intermediate host is ingested by the proper final host. A three-host cycle with a swimming coracidium, procercoid and plerocercoid (sparganum) larva, and adult intestinal worm is found in aquatic life cycles, as in Diphyllobothrium latum (broad fish tapeworm) and other pseudophyllid cestodes. Other important species of tapeworm are Echinococcus granulosus (hydatid tapeworm), Hymenolepis nana or H. nana var. fraterna (dwarf or dwarf mouse tapeworm), Taenia saginata (beef, hookless, or unarmed tapeworm), T. solium (armed, pork, or solitary tapeworm), and Thysanosoma actinoides (fringed tapeworm of sheep).
Dog tapeworm 123.8.
Fish tapeworm 123.4.
Beef tapeworm 123.2.
Broad tapeworm 123.4.
Dog tapeworm 123.8.
Dwarf tapeworm 123.6.
Fish tapeworm 123.4.
Pork tapeworm (adult) 123.0.
Rat tapeworm 123.6.
The dwarf tapeworm or Hymenolepis nana is the most common tapeworm infection diagnosed throughout the world. Infection is more common in children, in persons living in institutional settings, and in people who live in areas where sanitation and personal hygiene is inadequate.
You can get infected by accidentally ingesting tapeworm eggs. This can happen by ingesting faecally contaminated foods and water, by touching your mouth with contaminated fingers, or by ingesting contaminated soil.
Adult tapeworms are very small in comparison with other tapeworms and may reach 15-40 mm (up to 2 inches) in length. The adult tapeworm is made up of many small segments, called proglottids. As the tapeworm matures inside the intestines, these segments break off and pass into the stool.
An adult tapeworm can live for 4-6 weeks. However, once you are infected, the dwarf tapeworm may cause auto infection (the tapeworm may reproduce inside the body) and continue the infection.
Most people who are infected do not have any symptoms. Those who have symptoms may experience nausea, weakness, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. Young children, especially those with a heavy infection, may develop a headache, itchy bottom, or have difficulty sleeping. Sometimes infection is misdiagnosed as a pinworm infection.
Invasive tapeworm infection symptoms vary depending on where the larvae have migrated. If tapeworm larvae have migrated out of your intestines and formed cysts in other tissues, they can eventually cause organ and tissue damage, resulting in:
Cystic masses or lumps.
Allergic reactions to the larvae.
Diagnosis is made by identifying tapeworm eggs in stool. Your health care provider will ask you to submit stool specimens collected over several days to see if you are infected.
For tissue-invasive infections, your doctor may also test your blood for antibodies your body may have produced to fight tapeworm infection. The presence of these antibodies indicates tapeworm infestation. Certain types of imaging, such as CT or MRI scans, X-rays or ultrasounds of cysts, also may suggest the diagnosis.
Treatment is available. A prescription drug called praziquantel is given. The medication causes the tapeworm to dissolve within the intestines. Praziquantel is generally well tolerated. Sometimes more than one treatment is necessary. Albendazole (Albenza) is sometimes used, as well as the antimicrobial drug nitazoxanide (Alinia). The medication prescribed depends on the species of tapeworm involved and the site of infection.
Treatments for invasive tapeworm infection
Anti-inflammatories: If tapeworm cysts are causing swelling or inflammation in your tissues or organs, an anti-inflammatory medication can help.
Anti-epileptic therapy: If the disease is causing seizures, anti-epileptic medications can stop them.
Shunt placement: One type of invasive infection can cause too much fluid on the brain, called hydrocephalus. Your doctor may recommend placing a permanent shunt, or tube, in your head to drain the fluid.
Surgery: Whether cysts can be removed surgically depends on their location and symptoms. Those that develop in the liver, lungs and eyes are typically removed, since they can eventually threaten organ function.
If you work in a childcare center where you change nappies (diapers), be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with plenty of soap and warm water after every diaper change, even if you wear gloves.
When travelling in countries where food is likely to be contaminated, wash, peel or cook all raw vegetables and fruits with safe water before eating.
Wash hands with soap and water after using the toilet, and before handling food.
Note: The following drugs and medications are in some way related to, or used in the treatment. This service should be used as a supplement to, and NOT a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners.
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.
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