What Is Taeniasis?
Taeniasis is an infection caused by the tapeworm, which is a type
of parasite. Parasites are small organisms that attach themselves to other
living things in order to survive. The living things the parasites attach to
are called hosts.
Parasites can be found in contaminated food and water. If you consume
contaminated food or drinks, you may contract a parasite that can live and
sometimes grow and reproduce inside of your body.
Taeniasis is an intestinal tapeworm infection caused by eating
contaminated beef or pork. Taeniasis is also known by the following names:
- pork tapeworm
- beef tapeworm
What Are the Symptoms of Teniasis?
Most people that have taeniasis don’t have any symptoms. If signs
and symptoms are present they may include:
- unexplained weight loss
- blockage of the intestine
- digestive problems
Some people with taeniasis may also experience irritation in the
perianal area, which is the area around the anus. Worm segments or eggs being
expelled in the stool cause this irritation.
People often become aware that they have a tapeworm when they see
worm segments or eggs in their stool. Infections can take between eight and 14
weeks to develop.
What Causes Teniasis?
You can develop taeniasis by eating raw or undercooked beef or
pork. Contaminated food can contain tapeworm eggs, or larvae, that grow in your
intestines when eaten. Fully cooking beef or pork will destroy the larvae so
that they cannot live in your body.
The tapeworm can grow up to 12 feet in length. It can live in the
intestines for years without being discovered. Tapeworms have segments along
their bodies. Each of these segments can produce eggs. As the tapeworm matures,
these eggs will be passed out of the body in the stool.
Poor hygiene can also cause the spread of teniasis. Once tapeworm
larvae are in human stool, they can be spread through contact with the stool.
You should wash your hands properly to help prevent the spread of the
Taeniasis is more common in countries where sanitation and hand
hygiene are often substandard. Although the infection isn’t commonly found in
the United States, people who travel to low- and lower-middle-income countries are
at risk for contracting the disease
Taeniasis is more likely to develop in people who have weakened
immune systems and aren’t able to fight off infections. Your immune system can
weaken due to:
- an organ transplant
How Is Taeniasis Diagnosed?
See your doctor if you see worm segments or eggs in your stool. Your
doctor will ask you about your health history and recent travel outside of the
United States. Doctors will often be able to make a diagnosis of taeniasis
based on the symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may order blood
tests including a complete blood count. They may also order a stool exam to see
if eggs or worm segments are present.
Getting Rid of a Tapeworm
Taeniasis is typically treated by medications prescribed by your
doctor. Medications for the treatment of taeniasis include praziquantel and
Both drugs are antihelmintics, which means they kill parasitic
worms and their eggs. In most cases, these medications are provided in a single
dose. But these medications can take a few weeks to fully clear an infection.
The tapeworm will be excreted as waste. Common side effects associated with
these medications include dizziness and upset stomach.
What Is the Outlook for People with Teniasis?
Most cases of this infection go away with treatment. Medications
prescribed for this condition are typically effective and will cure the
In some cases, serious complications from the infection can occur.
Tapeworms may block your intestines. This may require surgery to correct. In
some cases, the tapeworm may travel to other parts of your body such as the
heart, eye, or brain. This condition is called cysticercosis. It can cause other health problems like seizures or
infections in the nervous system.
How Can Taeniasis Be Prevented?
The most effective way to prevent taeniasis is to cook food
thoroughly. This means cooking meat to a temperature above 140°F for five minutes or more. Measure the meat temperature with
a cooking thermometer. After cooking meat, allow it to stand for three minutes
before cutting it. This can help destroy any parasites that may be in the meat.
In the United States, laws requiring the inspection of animals
and meat help reduce the chance that tapeworms will be spread.
Proper hand hygiene is also important for preventing the spread
of this disease. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom and teach your
children to do the same. Drink bottled water if you live in or travel to an
area where water must be treated.