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Infectious Diseases

Tapeworms

11/25/2002

Question:

How do you get rid of tapeworms? Does it hurt when u have them and why? How do u know u have them? WHen u do get rid of them how do u know that there all out of u? How long can you have them? Do the doctors get them out or do they come out there self? Last,but not least can u die from them? Do they hurt when they`ve come out?

Answer:

Tapeworms, also known as Cestodes, can cause several intestinal infections (such as fish tapeworm, beef tapeworm, and pork tapeworm) that are acquired by ingestion of undercooked fish, beef or pork containing the larval cysts of the worms. These infections are diagnosed by examination of stool samples for presence of eggs and parts of the worm called proglottids. Adult worms can live for years attached to the inner surface of a human`s intestine, yet they cause surprisingly few symptoms unless there are many worms. Mild, intermittent abdominal discomfort is the main symptom, and sometimes a person first becomes aware they had a tapeworm when the adult worm has lived its lifespan, dies and is passed along with a bowel movement. Ingestion of pork tapeworm eggs can cause cystercercosis, a condition where cysts form in many parts of the body. Symptoms may develop due to local inflammation at the site of involvement, but a serious disease only occurs when cysts form in the brain (seizures) or heart. In developing countries, intestinal tapeworm infections contribute to malnutrition and can worsen other infections, but in developed countries such as the US, tapeworm infections don`t contribute to fatal illnesses. The exception could be the invasive cestode infection echinococcosis, which results in liver or lung cysts that rarely can rupture, causing severe allergic reactions to parasite antigens. Tapeworm infections should be treated whenever diagnosed, and there are two oral medications available to treat them. Avoiding them is possible with good sanitation and good meat-handling practices. Good sanitation means careful disposal of human sewage to limit environmental spread of parasite eggs, both on the population-wide scale of proper sewage handling and on the individual scale of hand washing after going to the bathroom, especially before cooking. Good meat-handling includes meat inspection prior to marketing to exclude cyst-infected carcasses as well as prolonged freezing and/or thorough cooking of meat to kill any cysts in the tissues before eating. 

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Response by:

Lisa A Haglund, MD Lisa A Haglund, MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati