Taeniasis is an infection caused by a parasite called a tapeworm, a worm that takes over the small intestine. Among the types of tapeworms, two are found in humans: the taenia solium, mainly transmitted by pork, and taenia saginata. The latter is ingested by an ox, and will remain in the muscles: the contamination of humans is through the consumption of infected meat that is raw or undercooked. An adult taenia saginata has a ribbon-shaped body, comprising between 500 and 2000 rings and a head with hooks that attach it the intestinal wall. It can reach a length of 4 to 10 meters. The rings of taenia saginata can be located at the anus where they die, allowing for the release of resistant eggs into the external environment. It is the discovery of these rings that often allows for a diagnosis.
A taenia saginata is often not responsible for any clinical signs. However, it can cause:
- digestive disorders with nausea and diarrhea;
- abdominal cramps;
- weight loss or stable weight despite a normal or consistent diet;
- sometimes, allergic signs such as hives;
- a presence of white rings in the stool or underwear.
The diagnosis of taenia saginata consists of the finding of rings in underwear or in the patient's stool. A test called the tape test consists of applying a type of adhesive tape to the anus to highlight the presence of these rings. A blood test may also show increased levels of a type of white blood cell called eosinophils.
The treatment of taenia saginata is a drug derived from a molecule called praziquantel given in a single dose. Another molecule, niclosamide, is also sometimes used.
Preventing taenia saginata is simple and consists of making sure to properly cooking beef. Also, routine veterinary checks in slaughterhouses can reduce the risk of infection.