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Pork Tapeworm

(Taeniasis; Cysticercosis)

Definition

Tapeworms are large, flat parasites. They can live in the intestines of animals and humans. Sometimes they infect the brain, muscle, or other tissues. There are different types of tapeworms. Pork tapeworms are found in pigs.

Causes

The tapeworm is passed to humans from pigs that have it. The pigs get it from eating or drinking water with the tapeworm.

The tapeworms grow in the pig's intestines. They spread to the pig's blood and muscles. People get infected by eating pork that has the tapeworm. This only happens if the pork is raw or undercooked.

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of pork tapeworm are:

  • Eating raw or undercooked pork
  • Passing the parasite to the mouth from unwashed hands
  • Being near pigs or pig feces
  • Traveling or living in countries with poor sanitation

Symptoms

Tapeworms may be seen in vomit or stool. They do not always cause symptoms. If symptoms happen, they may be:

  • Nausea
  • Belly pain or bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Hunger or not wanting to eat
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Seizures—in rare cases

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done.

Blood and stool tests may be done.

Sometimes baby tapeworms move to the brain. If the doctor is concerned, images may be done with a CT scan or MRI .

Treatment

The infection is treated with medicines. They are taken by mouth. They attack the adult tapeworm.

If the brain is involved, other treatment is needed. Medicines may be given to reduce inflammation or seizures. Rarely, surgery may be done.

The doctor will check stool samples one and three months after treatment.

Prevention

Pork tapeworm infection may be prevented by:

  • Not eating raw or undercooked pork
  • Good sanitation at pig farms
RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov

The World Health Organization
http://www.who.int

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
https://www.cag-acg.org

Public Health Agency of Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traveler's Health—Yellow Book: Taeniasis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/travel-related-infectious-diseases/taeniasis . Accessed February 4, 2021.

Pork tapeworm and cysticercosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pork-tapeworm-and-cysticercosis. Accessed February 4, 2021.

Zammarchi L, Bonati M, et al. Screening, diagnosis and management of human cysticercosis and taenia solium taeniasis: technical recommendations by the COHEMI project study group. Trop Med Int Health. 2017;22(7):881-894.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 2/4/2021