Tapeworm Infections – Types, Symptoms, Transmission and Treatment

Tapeworm infections

, is essentially the infestation of the human digestive tract with parasitic worms called Cestodes or Tapeworms. Raw or improperly cooked food is often the source of the larvae or eggs of the live worm being ingested by the host. Once inside the host, the worm thrives and grows into an adult. Adult worms can measure up to 15 ft and live for 20 years.

What are the common types of Cestodes?

The most common type of these worms are as below:

  • Pork Tapeworm
  • Beef Tapeworm
  • Fish Tapeworm
  • Dwarf Tapeworm
  • Sheep Tapeworm
  • Dog Tapeworm


What are the symptoms of Tapeworm infections?

These worms can live in the human body being asymptomatic for a long time. Without any symptoms, it becomes very difficult to detect their presence in the human body. Other symptoms would be as follows:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Abdominal uneasiness.
  • Weakness.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Unexplained anemia.
  • Loss of Appetite.
  • Passing of live and moving segments (proglottids) of the worm in feces. They look like smaller white worms.
  • Rare, but worms are also known to cause intestinal obstruction.
  • They can attach to the stomach walls and can cause inflammation and lesions.
  • The worm can dig through the stomach walls and migrate to other tissues forming cysts and creating complications.
  • In case when the worm migrates to the brain tissue, it can cause severe neurological symptoms like head aches, seizures, edema, cystic masses and lesions and loss of coherence. However, manifestation of any brain tissue damage would be very gradual and slow.

Transmission of infection causing parasitic Cestodes

It is interesting to discuss the ways in which tapeworms are transmitted inside the host.

  • Transmission via ingested eggs

    : The eggs find their way inside the human body through food and water contaminated with these parasites. Food and water generally gets contaminated with feces of the host. For instance, a pig infected with the said worms passes it onto the soil through its feces. Food grown on that soil and not washed properly or eaten raw may result in the eggs being ingested. Eating pig meat infected with the parasite could also be a source. The eggs once ingested can grow into an adult tapeworm inside the host.

  • Transmission via ingested larvae cysts

    : Intake of meat embedded with larvae cysts in the muscle tissue can get into the digestive tract of humans. Sometimes insufficient personal hygiene causes the host to get reinfected from his own feces.

Treatment of Tapeworm Infections

  • Excellent personal hygiene and caution to be exercised as to the source of food and water consumed.
  • Single dose oral medications like praziquantel, albendazole, and antimicrobial drug nitazoxanide flushes out the adult worms from the body. However, eggs are not affected by these drugs and only superior personal hygiene can prevent reinfection from them.
  • In case of invasive infections where the worm has dug into tissues, antihelmintic drugs like albendazole can cause the cyst to shrink in size.
  • Surgery is also another option of treatment especially when these parasites cause blockages.

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