Tapeworm Infection - Health Center

Tapeworm Infection

By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST

Tapeworm Infection: Basic Information

Tapeworm Infection is caused due to the ingestion of infected water or food with the tapeworm eggs and larvae. With the ingestion of the tapeworm eggs, the eggs move outside the intestines and then form larval cysts in the body tissues and the organs. This is known as invasive infection. With the ingestion of the tapeworm larvae, adult tapeworms are formed inside the intestine. This is known as intestinal infection.

An adult tapeworm consists of the head, neck and the chain segments which are known as proglottids. With the intestinal tapeworm infections, the tapeworm adheres to the internal walls of the intestine and further produces eggs. The adult tapeworms can live for about 20 years within the host body. The intestinal tapeworm infections often tend to be of a mild nature. However, the larval infections can cause serious complications. 

Causes of Tapeworm Infection

A Tapeworm infection begins after the ingestion of the tapeworm eggs or the larvae.

  1. Ingestion of the eggs: If a person consumes food or drinks water which is contaminated with the faeces of the infected animal, it leads to the ingestion of microscopic eggs. For instance, a pig infected with the worms passes it on via it’s faeces into the soil. When the same soil comes in contact with the food or the water source, it can become contaminated. Once inside the intestines, the eggs can hatch and can develop into the larvae. These larvae become mobile and can migrate to the intestines in order to form the cysts in the other tissues such as the lungs, nervous system and the liver.
  2. Ingestion of the larvae in meat: If an animal is suffering from a tapeworm infection, the larvae can be present inside the muscle tissue of the animal. Eating undercooked or raw meat of the infected animal can lead to the development of the worms inside the intestine. Adult tapeworms can obtain a length of 50 feet and can survive for more than 20 years. These worms attach to the walls of the intestine and can cause mild inflammation and irritation. 

Signs and Symptoms of Tapeworm Infection

Many people suffering from tapeworm infection do not show any major signs or symptoms. However, the major symptoms of the infection are as follows:

  •       Nausea
  •       Weakness
  •       Loss of appetite
  •       Pain in the abdomen
  •       Diarrhoea and loose motions
  •       Loss of weight
  •       Inadequate absorption of nutrients from food

In case of Invasive Infection, the signs and symptoms are as follows:

  •       Persistent fever
  •       Formation of cysts and lumps
  •       Development of allergic reaction
  •       Bacterial infections
  •       Seizures

Tests and Diagnosis of Tapeworm Infection:

The following are the major tests which are used to diagnose Tapeworm Infections:

  1. Stool Sample Test: In case of Tapeworm Infections, the doctor may check the stool of the person and sends the sample to the laboratory. The sample is then tested for the presence of the eggs or segments of the worm. Two or three samples of the stool are collected and tested over a period of time for the presence of the worm. In some cases, the eggs are present at the anus; therefore, the doctor may use a piece of transparent adhesive tape in order to collect the sample of eggs.
  2. Blood Tests: These are done for tissue invasive infections where the doctor collects a sample of the blood in order to test for the presence of antibodies against tapeworm infections. The presences of these antibodies are suggestive of a tapeworm infection.
  3. Imaging Exams: Imaging exams such as MRI, Ultrasound and CT Scans are done in order to look for signs of cysts which may have formed due to tapeworm infections.

Treatment and Drugs for Tapeworm Infections:

In some cases, a tapeworm infection does not need any treatment. However, if you have been diagnosed with an intestinal tapeworm infection, medications are used in order to get rid of the infection.

Medications such as Praziquantel, Albendazole and Nitazoxanide are prescribed in order to target the adult tapeworms. It is recommended to wash your hands after using the toilet and before eating. In order to make sure that your infection has been cleared off after the medicinal treatment, the doctor collects a sample of the stool.

For Invasive Infections, the treatment options include the following:

  1. Anthelmintic Drugs: These include medications such as Albendazole in order to shrink the cysts caused due to the tapeworm. The doctor tends to monitor the cysts over repeated intervals with the help of X Rays and ultrasound.
  2. Anti Inflammatory Therapy: This uses the dying of the tapeworm cysts which have been causing inflammation of the organs.
  3. Shunt Placement: Invasive Infection can cause the accumulation of excessive fluid near the brain. This condition is known as hydrocephalus. Therefore, the doctor may recommend placing a permanent shunt near the head in order to drain the fluid.
  4. Surgery: The surgical removal of the cysts is greatly dependent on the location and symptoms of the cysts. These cysts can develop near the liver, lungs as well as the eyes. The doctor can also use a drainage tube in order to allow the rinsing of the areas affected. 
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