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Cestodes are flat, parasitic, hermaphroditic tapeworms with complex life cycles that infect animals, including humans. Although there are multiple species of cestodes, this paper will focus on three particular species that cause human disease: Taenia solium (pork tapeworm), Taenia saginata (beef tapeworm), and Diphyllobothrium (fish tapeworm).

There are two types of infections that can develop depending on the route of infection. The first type is caused by ingesting the eggs from an adult worm (expelled in animal or human feces) which results in developing cysticerci (larval stage) within the animal or human tissues. This is known as cysticercosis. If these cysticerci develop in the central nervous system, this is called neurocysticercosis. The second type is due to ingesting the cysticerci themselves, from poorly cooked infected meat, which results in the growth and infestation of the adult tapeworm within the gastrointestinal tract. The infection with the adult tapeworm is called taeniasis if infected by the Taenia family or diphyllobothriasis if infected by Diphyllobothrium.

These tapeworm infections have significant human and veterinary disease implications as well as economic effects. Neurocysticercosis is an important cause of seizures and accounts for approximately 30% of all epilepsy cases in most developing countries.


Most people who have taeniasis don’t have any symptoms. If signs and symptoms are present, they may include:


unexplained weight loss

blockage of the intestine

digestive problems

Some people with taeniasis may also experience irritation in the perianal area, which is the area around the anus. Worm segments or eggs being expelled in the stool cause this irritation.

People often become aware that they have a tapeworm when they see worm segments or eggs in their stool.

Infections can take between 8 and 14 weeks to develop.


You can develop taeniasis by eating raw or undercooked beef or pork. Contaminated food can contain tapeworm eggs or larvae that grow in your intestines when eaten.

Fully cooking beef or pork will destroy the larvae so that they can’t live in your body.

The tapeworm can grow up to 12 feet in length. It can live in the intestines for years without being discovered. Tapeworms have segments along their bodies. Each of these segments can produce eggs. As the tapeworm matures, these eggs will be passed out of the body in the stool.

Poor hygiene can also cause the spread of taeniasis. Once tapeworm larvae are in human stool, they can be spread through contact with the stool. You should wash your hands properly to help prevent the spread of the infection.

Risk factors

Taeniasis is more commonTrusted Source in areas where raw beef or pork is consumed and where sanitation is poor. These areas may include:

Eastern Europe and Russia

East Africa

sub-Saharan Africa

Latin America

parts of Asia, including China, Indonesia, and South Korea

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, there are probably fewer than 1,000 new cases in the United States each year. However, people who travel to areas where taeniasis is more common are at risk of contracting the disease.

Taeniasis is more likely to develop in people who have weakened immune systems and aren’t able to fight off infections. Your immune system can weaken due to:



an organ transplant



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Intestinal tapeworm infections usually don't cause complications. If complications do occur, they may include:

Digestive blockage. If tapeworms grow large enough, they can block your appendix, leading to infection (appendicitis); your bile ducts, which carry bile from your liver and gallbladder to your intestine; or your pancreatic duct, which carries digestive fluids from your pancreas to your intestine.

Brain and central nervous system impairment. Called neurocysticercosis (noor-o-sis-tih-sur-KOE-sis), this especially dangerous complication of invasive pork tapeworm infection can result in headaches and visual impairment, as well as seizures, meningitis, hydrocephalus or dementia. Death can occur in severe cases of infection.

Organ function disruption. When larvae migrate to the liver, lungs or other organs, they become cysts. Over time, these cysts grow, sometimes large enough to crowd the functioning parts of the organ or reduce its blood supply. Tapeworm cysts sometimes rupture, releasing more larvae, which can move to other organs and form additional cysts.

A ruptured or leaking cyst can cause an allergy-like reaction, with itching, hives, swelling and difficulty breathing. Surgery or organ transplantation may be needed in severe cases.


The most effective way to prevent taeniasis is to cook food thoroughly. This means cooking meat to a temperature above 140°F (60°F) for five minutes or more. Measure the meat temperature with a cooking thermometer.

After cooking meat, allow it to stand for three minutes before cutting it. This can help destroy any parasites that may be in the meat. Learn more about meat safety.

In the United States, laws requiring the inspection of animals and meat help reduce the chance that tapeworms will be spread.

Proper hand hygiene is also important for preventing the spread of this disease. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom and teach your children to do the same.

Also, drink bottled water if you live in or travel to an area where water must be treated.