What is Taeniasis?
Taeniasis is a parasitic infection normally caused by eating contaminated or undercooked pork or beef. The parasite causing Taeniasis is a tapeworm. Parasites are organism that needs the help of other living things in order to be able to survive. The living thing that the parasite lives in is called as the host. Parasites are commonly found in contaminated water and food, which when consumed can caused the eggs or larvae of the parasite to enter the body and the body becomes the host for the parasite, in which the eggs mature and cause infection.
Taeniasis occurs in the intestinal area meaning that the tapeworm settles down and resides in the intestinal area from where it grows and reproduces. Taeniasis is also known by the name of pork tapeworm or beef tapeworm as it is mostly caused by eating undercooked pork or beef. Generally there are no symptoms caused by Taeniasis, but sometimes there may be pain or unintentional weight loss caused by Taeniasis.
What Causes Taeniasis?
As stated, Taeniasis is mostly caused by eating raw or undercooked beef or pork. These contaminated foods contain tapeworm eggs are also called as larvae, which enter the body and settle down in the intestines and start to grow. The tapeworm causing Taeniasis can go up to 12 feet in length and may stay in the body undiscovered for years as it basically does not cause any significant symptoms. These tapeworms have segments among the bodies, which have the capability to produce eggs. As the tapeworm gets matured these eggs are eliminated from the body through stool. Poor hygiene and no washing hands before eating is yet another cause for contracting Taeniasis.
Taeniasis is quite rare in the United States as a lot of attention is paid to sanitation and hygiene, but is quite prevalent in countries where there are sanitation problems.
Taeniasis develops much easier in people with weak immune system due to medical conditions like HIV or AIDS or due to old age.
What are the Symptoms of Taeniasis?
In majority of the cases, Taeniasis does not cause any symptoms. Even if there are any symptoms they are minimal and may include:
- Pain around the abdominal region.
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Intestinal blockage.
- Problems with digestion.
Irritation in the area around the anus is another symptom that an individual with Taeniasis may have due to the eggs being eliminated from the body through stool and tend to cause this irritation.
In majority of the cases, people come to know that they have a tapeworm when they see a segment of a worm or eggs in their stool.
How is Taeniasis Diagnosed?
Once an individual sees a segment of the worm or eggs in the stool then a consultation with a physician is required to get a checkup to diagnose which type of worm is present so that a treatment plan can be formulated. The physician will begin by taking a history, in which he or she may ask detailed account of any travel outside country to any underdeveloped or unhygienic area in the recent past. A diagnosis of Taeniasis can be made on the basis of symptoms, but a confirmation is done by conducting blood tests and a stool culture which will virtually confirm the diagnosis of Taeniasis.
How is Taeniasis Treated?
Taeniasis in almost all the cases is treated by medications, which are known to eliminate parasites and their eggs in the body. These medications are praziquantel and albendazole. These medications most of the times are given as a single dose, but it may take a couple of weeks for the infection to resolve completely. The tapeworm will be eliminated from the body as stool. These medications may sometimes cause dizziness or an upset stomach, but apart from that there are no other side effects and are good enough to treat Taeniasis.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Taeniasis: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/taeniasis/index.html
- MedlinePlus – Taeniasis: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001391.htm