Teniasis; Pork tapeworm; Beef tapeworm; Tapeworm; Taenia saginata; Taenia solium; Taeniasis
Beef or pork tapeworm infection is an infection with the tapeworm parasite found in beef or pork.
Tapeworm infection is caused by eating the raw or undercooked meat of infected animals. Cattle usually carry Taenia saginata (T saginata). Pigs carry Taenia solium (T solium).
In the human intestine, the young form of the tapeworm from the infected meat (larva) develops into the adult tapeworm. A tapeworm can grow to longer than 12 feet (3.5 meters) and can live for years.
Tapeworms have many segments. Each segment is able to produce eggs. The eggs are spread alone or in groups, and can pass out with the stool or through the anus.
Adults and children with pork tapeworm can infect themselves if they have poor hygiene. They can ingest tapeworm eggs they pick up on their hands while wiping or scratching their anus or the skin around it.
Those who are infected can expose other people to T solium eggs, usually through food handling.
Tapeworm infection usually does not cause any symptoms. Some people may have abdominal discomfort.
People often realize they are infected when they pass segments of the worm in their stool, especially if the segments are moving.
Tests that may be done to confirm diagnosis of an infection include:
Tapeworms are treated with medicines taken by mouth, usually in a single dose. The drug of choice for tapeworm infections is praziquantel. Niclosamide can also be used.
With treatment, the tapeworm infection goes away.
In rare cases, worms can cause a blockage in the intestine.
If pork tapeworm larvae move out of the intestine, they can cause local growths and damage tissues such as the brain, eye, or heart. This condition is called cysticercosis. Infection of the brain (neurocysticercosis) can cause seizures and other nervous system problems.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you pass something in your stool that looks like a white worm.
In the United States, laws on feeding practices and the inspection of domestic food animals have largely eliminated tapeworms.
Measures you can take to prevent tapeworm infection include:
King CH, Fairley JK. Tapeworms (cestodes). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 291.
White AC Jr, Brunetti E. Cestodes. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 354.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 9/27/2017
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2019 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.