Tapeworm infections- causes, symptoms, treatment

Tapeworm infections are zoonotic infections because they are transmitted from animals to humans (pigs, cows, fish and dogs). Human intestines provide an environment in which tapeworm larvae can grow and develop into adults.

Man, on the other hand, serves as an intermediate host in some types of tapeworm infections. Because the tapeworm does not reach adulthood, only cysts and eggs infect humans.

Tapeworm infections–Types

  1. Beef Tapeworm
  2. Pork Tapeworm
  3. Fish Tapeworm
  4. Dwarf Tapeworm

Beef Tapeworm

Causative agent

Taenia saginata

Transmission

Through the consumption of inadequately cooked beef, tapeworms may reach 10 to 15 feet in length in the gut.

Symptoms and signs

  • Nutritional problems
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Passage of ribbon-like tapeworm segments from the rectum

Investigations

Stool test

Pork Tapeworm

Causative agent

Taenia solium

Symptoms and signs

  • Cysticercosis (cysticerci may lodge in the brain, eye or muscle)
  • Brain— seizures, swelling of the brain, difficulty in balance, dementia
  • Muscle– lumps under the skin
  • Eye– the blurring of the vision and occasionally detachment of the retina
  • Heart– abnormal rhythms and heart failure
  • Spinal cord– loss of motor control, weakness, paralysis
  • Calcium salts are laid down in the place of the dead parasite, creating tiny pebbles in the soft tissue

Investigations

  • Stool test
  • Blood test
  • Biopsy
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI-brain
  • CT-scan

Fish Tapeworm

Causative agent

Diphyllobothrium latum

Transmission

Through the consumption of undercooked fish, especially fish from the Great Lakes region.

Symptoms and signs

Megaloblastic anaemia

Dwarf Tapeworm

Causative agent

Hymenolepis nana

Transmission

Auto-infect through faecal-oral contact. Ingestion of food contaminated with mouse droppings may spread the infection.

Symptoms and signs

  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Anorexia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Protein-losing enteropathy
  • Stunted growth
  • Allergic phlyctenular kerato-conjunctivitis

Investigations

Repeated stool  test

Treatment

  • Ayurvedic Medicines with de-worm properties
  • Albendazole
  • Vitamin B-12 supplements
  • Surgery – In severe cases remove the infected area or facilitate the removal of the cyst.

Prevention

  • Thorough cooking of all meat products so that they reach temperatures of more than 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cysts can be killed by freezing the meat products for long periods (minimum of 12 hours)
  • Practice general hygiene to prevent tapeworm infections.

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