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Taeniasis: Treatment, symptoms, advice & help

About taeniasis

Taeniasis is an infection caused by the adult tapeworms residing in the intestinal lumen. Taenia saginata, or beef tapeworm, is found commonly in the cattle-breeding areas of the world, especially in Central Asia and central and eastern Africa. Taenia solium (Pork tapeworm) infection is endemic in Mexico, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, India, Africa and Southern Europe.

Taeniasis: Incidence, age and sex

The exact incidence in the UK is not known. It increases with age and is maximum in the 45-56 yrs age group and is more common in males and those who eat undercooked meat.

Signs and symptoms of taeniasis: Diagnosis

Commonly, adult worms in the intestine do not produce symptoms though nonspecific abdominal discomfort, hunger pains, and weight loss may occur. People often realize they are infected when they pass segments of the worm in their stool, especially if the segments are moving. Specific diagnosis is established by the recovery of the ova of the parasite in the stool of the individual.

Causes and prevention of taeniasis

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. Avoiding raw meat and cooking meat well will prevent tapeworm infection. Freezing meats to -4 degrees F for 24 hours also kills tapeworm eggs. Good hygiene and hand washing after using the toilet will prevent self-infection in a person who is already infected with tapeworms.

Taeniasis: Complications

Infection with multiple worms may cause intestinal obstruction. The other serious complications are appendicitis, obstruction of bile ducts and pancreatic duct. If pork tapeworm larvae move out of the intestine, they may cause local growths and damage tissues such as those of the brain, the eyes, or the heart. This condition is called cysticercosis. Infection of the brain may cause seizures and other nervous system problems.

Taeniasis: Treatment

The treatment of choice is niclosamide. This drug is available as chewable 500-mg tablets. It is administered as a single dose that either should be chewed thoroughly or should be crushed and made into a paste before administration. The dose is 2.0g for adults, 1.5g for children weighing more than 34kg, and 1.0g for children weighing less than 34kg. The alternative drug is praziquantel. The drug is administered in a single dose of 10 to 20mg/kg. It is not recommended in pregnancy, and its safety in children younger than age 4 has still not been established.