Tapeworm infections- causes, symptoms, treatment

Tapeworm infections are zoonotic infections as they are transmitted to man from animals (pig, cow, fish and dog). Human intestines provide an ambient environment for the tapeworm larvae to grow and develop into an adult. However in some types of tapeworm infections, man act as an intermediate host. Only cysts/eggs infect humans as the tapeworm does not reach an adult stage.

Tapeworm infections–Types

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

Beef Tapeworm

Causative agent

Taenia saginata

Transmission

Through 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 (cycticerci may lodge in the brain, eye or muscle)
  • Brain— seizures, swelling of the brain, difficulty in balance, dementia
  • Muscle– lumps under the skin
  • Eye– 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 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 under cooked fish, especially fish from the Great Lakes region.

Symptoms And Signs–

Megaloblastic anemia

Dwarf Tapeworm

Causative agent–

Hymenolepis nana

dwarf tapeworm

Transmission–

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

Symptoms And Signs

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

Investigations–

Repeated stool  test

Treatment

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

Prevention

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

Hand washing

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