Taenia Saginata (Beef Tapeworm)

Taeniasis is an intestinal infection caused by adult tapeworms. Beef tapeworm infection is caused by the worm taenia saginata. Infected cattle have the larvae (cysticerci) in their meat. Humans acquire the infection by eating raw or undercooked beef, the larvae are released and mature into adult tapeworms in the intestines. The infection is not life threatening and is most often noticed when parts of the worm emerge from the anus.

Where does it occur?

It occurs worldwide. However areas of highest prevalence are Central Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Eastern and Central Africa.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by the ingestion of raw or undercooked beef containing the cysts of the tapeworm taenia saginata. The cyst develops into an adult tapeworm in the human intestine.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is not contagious from person to person.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is generally low if one avoids raw or undercooked beef.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Symptoms develop anywhere from 2-3 months after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Most people experience no symptoms, except for finding parts of the tapeworm pass from the anus. Abdominal cramps or loss of appetite may be seen in some.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Examination of stool or underclothes will reveal segments of the adult tapeworm that have migrated out of the intestine, called ‘proglottids’.

Is there any treatment?

Treatment with the medication Praziquantel is effective.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Avoid eating raw or undercooked beef dishes like rare steak, steak tartare etc. in high risk countries. Make sure there are is no ‘pink’ in the meat that you consume.

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