Atlas of foodborne infections
transmitted by contaminated food and water

Atlas of Patogens Contents Information sources Glossary Administration


CZ: tasemnice
EN: tapeworm

Meat and Meat Products
Fruits and Vegetables
Water and Beverages


Foodborne Disease:
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taeniosis - infection caused by adult-stage of tapeworms, sometimes without symptoms; abdominal pain, weight loss, digestive disturbances, and possible intestinal obstruction

cysticercosis - infection caused by the larval-stage of the tapeworm involves central nervous system, heart or eyes

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Taenia saginata (beef tapeworm) and Taenia solium (pork tapeworm) are parasitic worms (helminths).
Taeniosis is the name of the intestinal infection caused by adult-stage tapeworms (beef or pork tapeworms).
Cysticercosis is the name of the tissue (other than intestinal) infection caused by the larval-stage of the pork tapeworm only.

It is interesting to note that humans are the definitive hosts of both organisms. This means that the reproductive cycle, and thus egg production by the organisms, occurs only within humans. Eggs are passed in human faeces and they may be shed into the environment for as long as the worms remain in the intestines (for as long as 30 years). In addition, the eggs may remain viable in the environment for many months.

These diseases are more prevalent in underdeveloped countries where sanitation practices may be substandard and in areas where pork and beef are consumed raw or undercooked. Most cases of infection with adult worms are without symptoms. Some persons may experience abdominal pain, weight loss, digestive disturbances, and possible intestinal obstruction. Irritation of the peri-anal area can occur, caused by worms or worm segments exiting the anus.

T. saginata (beef tapeworm) infections appear within 10 to 14 weeks. T. solium (pork tapeworm) infections appear within 8 to 12 weeks, worm eggs hatch and the larvae then migrate to various parts of the body and form cysts called cysticerci. This can be a serious or fatal disease if it involves organs such as the central nervous system, heart, or eyes.

Taeniosis may last many years without medical treatment. Persons with weakened immune systems including those with HIV/AIDS nfection, organ transplant recipients, or those individuals undergoing chemotherapy may be at greater risk for infection. Best prevention is to cook beef and pork to 70°C to kill encysted tapeworm larvae that may be present.

People get cysticercosis the following ways: contaminated with the eggs of T. solium (pork tapeworm), by consuming food or water, by putting anything into your mouth that has touched the stool of a person infected with T. solium. Symptoms may vary depending on the organ or organ system involved. For example, an individual with cysticercocis involving the central nervous system (neurocysticercosis) may exhibit neurological symptoms such as psychiatric problems or epileptic seizures.
Death is common. Symptoms usually appear from several weeks to several years after becoming infected with the eggs of the pork tapeworm (T. solium). Symptoms may last for many years if medical treatment is not received.

Persons travelling to countries where sanitation may be substandard and the water supply may be unsafe. Persons with weakened immune systems including those with HIV/AIDS infection, organ transplant recipients, or those individuals undergoing chemotherapy may be at a greater risk for infection.

Prevention: Drink water only from treated municipal water supplies, when travelling to countries either avoid the water or boil it for 1 minute to kill parasite eggs, drinking bottled beverages or hot coffee and tea are safe alternatives, do not swallow water while swimming,  do not swim in community swimming pools if you or your children are infected with tapeworms,  wash, peel, or cook raw fruits and vegetables before eating, make sure that infected individuals wash their hands frequently to reduce the spread of infection.


Source: Adult tapeworm Taenia saginata - humans are final hosts
Source: Cysticerci digested free of cow tissue-protoscoleces have everted
Source: Different types of intermediate stages
Source: Egg of genus Taenia in feces after flotation technique
Source: Life cycle of genus Taenia
Source: T. saginata - detail of proglotids

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