Also called cestodiasis and commonly called tapeworm, taeniasis is a parasitic infection that can result from several types of parasites. The incidence of tapeworm infestation varies with the type.
Tapeworm usually is a chronic but benign intestinal disease. However, infestation with Taenia solum may cause dangerous systemic and central nervous system (CNS) symptoms if larvae invade the brain and striated muscle of vital organs. Tapeworm seldom is fatal unless it isn't treated.
Tapeworm infection is acquired by eating raw or undercooked meat of infected animals. Beef generally carryTaenia saginata while pigs carryTaenia solium. The larvae from the infected meat develop in the human intestine into the adult tapeworm -- which can grow to longer than 12 feet.
Tapeworms are segmented, with each segment (proglottid) capable of producing eggs. Eggs are dispersed by individual or groups of proglottids detaching and passing out with the stool. The groups of proglottids from the beef tapeworm are capable of movement and actively crawl out through the anus.
Symptoms and Signs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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