What is Taeniasis?

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  • Written By: Eric Stolze
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2019
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Taeniasis is an infection of the intestinal tract that is caused by tapeworms. Tapeworms are parasites that usually enter the body when an individual eats a piece of undercooked pork or beef that has tapeworms living in it. Taeniasis from undercooked pork is known as Taenia solium, and beef tapeworm is called Taenia saginata. People with taeniasis infections usually do not have symptoms, and they typically discover the infection when segments of a tapeworm are passed during a bowel movement.

An individual may experience mild inflammation or irritation of the bowel when a tapeworm attaches itself to the walls of his intestines. Nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain have occurred in some cases of this infection. People with this condition may experience weight loss due to a reduced appetite. Some patients do not absorb sufficient amounts of nutrients from the food that they eat because of the presence of a tapeworm in the intestinal tract.


People have contracted some taeniasis infections due to poor hygiene, such as a lack of hand washing after a bowel movement. Taeniasis infections can also result from water or food that has been contaminated with tapeworms. Contamination typically occurs when tapeworms spread to soil from the feces of infected pigs or cows. The tapeworms in the soil can then spread to food or sources of drinking water that are located near the contaminated soil. People may prevent most tapeworm infections by not eating raw meat, by thoroughly cooking meat and by practicing good personal hygiene.

In cases of suspected taeniasis infections, physicians typically send a sample of a patient’s feces to a laboratory for testing. The laboratory looks for tapeworm segments or tapeworm eggs in the feces sample. Patients may need to provide several samples for testing because tapeworm segments and eggs tend to be passed through the bowels at irregular intervals. A physician often has a patient undergo a blood test to look for signs of a parasitic infection.

Medical doctors treat intestinal tapeworm infections with prescription drugs in most cases. Patients may be prescribed medications such as niclosamide, praziquantel or albendazole to kill their tapeworms. The specific drug prescribed to a patient typically depends on the species of tapeworm that needs to be treated. These drugs are usually administered orally, and they are often successful at ridding the intestinal tract of tapeworm parasites.

Some cases of taeniasis may spread from the intestinal tract to other parts of the body. This medical complication is known as cysticercosis, and it can result in tapeworm infections of the brain, eyes or heart. Tapeworm infections of the brain may cause seizures, while infected eyes often develop lesions that reduce vision or even cause blindness. Heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms have occurred in rare cases of tapeworm infections of the heart. Physicians may treat cysticercosis with strong anti-parasitic drugs and surgical removal of tapeworm-infected areas.



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