Tapeworms are parasites that appear in the intestinal tract. They infect humans by eating undercooked or raw meat. Tapeworms can only survive within a host. You can also contract tapeworms by touching the faecal matter of infected animals or contaminated water. Tapeworm requires medical intervention to treat.
Causes of tapeworms
You only develop tapeworms if you eat contaminated food or water. One of the most common sources is through the tapeworm eggs. They can become infected through food, water, and contaminated soil. The eggs hatch into larvae make their way to the intestines and infect other parts of the body.
Adult tapeworms can live as long as 25 years and can be up to 15 metres long. They are usually passed out in stool to continue further infection. In countries that eat raw fish, tapeworms are more common.
Research also shows that there can be human-to-human transmission of tapeworms. However, this only happens with the dwarf tapeworm. It can go through its entire metamorphosis through one host. Humans can also reinfect themselves if they maintain poor hygiene standards.
The most common types of tapeworms that infect humans include:
- Pork tapeworm
Tapeworm infections are diagnosed through blood tests which look for antibodies to show proof of infection. Imaging scans such as X-rays or CT scans can show signs of infection. Checking stool samples or the area around the anus can show also signs of infection. A doctor can also order an organ test to confirm if it’s working appropriately.
The most common risk factors include:
- Exposure to animals
- Difficulty maintaining hygiene
- Consuming raw or undercooked meat
Tapeworm infection isn’t always visible. Common symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, rapid weight loss, and diarrhoea. Depending on the type of tapeworm other symptoms include segments of the tapeworm in stool, abdominal pain, vomiting, weakness, intestinal inflammation, change in appetite, sleep problems, dizziness, convulsions, and malnutrition.
Complications that arise include cysticercosis which is the infection of tapeworm larvae in organs outside the intestine. This then causes lesions and cysts. Another complication is neurocysticercosis. It’s a dangerous complication resulting from pork tapeworm. This is when tapeworm affects the brain and nervous system. This can lead to headaches, vision issues, seizures, meningitis, and confusion. In severe cases, it leads to death.
Echinococcosis or hydatid disease is caused by the echinococcus tapeworm. The larvae leave the intestines and move to the organs, especially the liver. This leads to cysts that lead to high blood pressure. Hydatid disease can be treated by surgery or a liver transplant.
This depends on whether you have a larvae or adult tapeworm infection. This is because adult tapeworms can stay in the intestine but larvae can transfer to other organs. Larvae infection also takes a very long time to display symptoms and can lead to fatalities in severe cases.
These are drugs that stay in the gut until they dissolve or kill the tapeworm. After this, a doctor can prescribe a laxative to ensure the tapeworm is passed out. If the tapeworm is from pork meat, a doctor will prescribe antiemetics. These are medications that prevent vomiting. This helps prevent the reabsorption of larvae. During the treatment, your stool will be inspected to confirm no presence of tapeworm segments, eggs, or larvae.
It is important to note that general dewormers may not kill tapeworms. Antiparasitic drugs used to treat intestinal infections include:
- praziquantel (Biltricide)
- albendazole (Albenza)
- nitazoxanide (Alinia)
These are steroids that help treat any inflammation that happens as a result of infection of outside gut tissue. They also reduce the swelling of cysts.
When cysts develop on organs due to infection, they’ll need to be surgically removed. This is especially vital when it occurs on vital organs. The cysts will be injected with medications to kill the larvae before the surgery is conducted.
Also check out this article for more tips How to Get Rid of Tapeworms in Humans: Treatment, Natural Remedies, and More
Food: 6 Cooking Mistakes You Need To Avoid To Stay Healthy
Health: Deworming – Why It Is Important And How To Deworm
12 Things That You Should Do Every Few Months
The Benefits Of Eating Fermented Foods & Beverages
Cysts: Types, Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment
Health: H. Pylori – Symptoms, Treatment And Management