The tapeworm is a parasitic disease caused by the presence in the intestinal tract of a ribbon-like worm. The infection is often asymptomatic, but it can spread easily under poor hygiene conditions. After infection, a single adult parasite survives in the intestine and produces tens of thousands of eggs that reach the faeces.
Consumption of raw or cooked beef or pork at too low temperatures leads to ingestion of tapeworm larval cysts that develop in the intestine.
The tapeworm is usually associated with two species of parasites: Taenia solium, whose larvae are transmitted through the consumption of pork and Taenia saginata, whose larvae can reach the digestive system through the consumption of beef.
Two similar species of intestinal parasites are Dyphyllobotrium latum, taenia lata, which is transmitted through the consumption of fish meat and Hymenolepis nana, which can be transmitted through ingestion of insects.
The tapeworm can sometimes be asymptomatic, but in most cases the following symptoms, of medium intensity, can be observed:
- nausea and vomiting;
- abdominal pain;
- decreased appetite;
- weight loss;
After the symptoms have caused a visit to the doctor and the diagnosis has been confirmed, it is recommended that the child's family members also undergo tests to determine if they have been infected with the ribbon.
The intestinal worm that caused the tapeworm can grow to a length of several meters and can survive in the body for decades. Due to the length of the worm that is growing, the tapeworm can cause intestinal obstruction.
Larvae of Taenia solium can migrate to other areas of the body, a condition called cystosis. Larvae can reach:
- in the brain (neurocysterosis), where they can lead to seizures and lesions, by increasing intracranial pressure;
- in the eyes, where they can sometimes lead to loss of vision;
- in the heart, where they can cause heart problems.
When the disease was caused by Taenia saginata, complications may include appendicitis or pancreatic necrosis.
Treatment of tapeworm requires a single dose, to kill the worm and the larvae. The niclosamide, praziquantel or albendazole pill chews slowly on the empty stomach to effect it.
Taenia solium is removed in the stool, while Taenia solinata can be removed at any time.
In the case of complications caused by the migration of the larvae, the child may need treatment with corticosteroids and anticonvulsants.
Because the parasite's eggs are present in the faeces, proper hygiene after using the toilet is absolutely necessary to avoid infecting others or even repeated self-infection.
Washing hands with soap and warm water at least 20 seconds after using the toilet and before meals reduces the risk of parasite transmission.
The tapeworm can be prevented by avoiding meat that does not have a sanitary-veterinary opinion and by thoroughly cooking at the correct temperature of beef and pork. However, these preventive measures do not concern the child, who is responsible only for his own hygiene.
Tags Digestive diseases