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.
Tapeworms enter the human body with contaminated food or water and remain in the intestines.
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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.
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 to or living in countries with poor sanitation
Tapeworms may be seen in vomit or stool. They do not always cause symptoms. If symptoms happen, they may be:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done.
Blood and stool tests may be done.
The infection is treated with medicine that is taken by mouth. It attacks the adult tapeworm.
If the brain is involved, other treatment is needed. Medicines may be given to ease inflammation or seizures. Rarely, surgery may be done.
The doctor will check stool samples one and three months after treatment to check for tapeworms.
Pork tapeworm infection may be prevented by not eating raw or undercooked pork.
- 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.
- Pork tapeworm and cysticercosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pork-tapeworm-and-cysticercosis.
- 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.
- David Horn, MD, FACP
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