Taeniasis: symptoms, transmission, life cycle and cysticercosis

Taeniasis is a worm caused by the adult form of flatworms. Taenia solium and Taenia Saginata (tapeworm).

Both species of tapeworms have man as their definitive host. The difference between them is their intermediate host. In the case of T. solium is the pig and to T. saginate is the ox.

Tapeworms can also be called solitary, as only one parasite is the host. This prevents the overpopulation of worms that can lead to host death.

Taeniasis and cysticercosis are related worms and form the taeniasis-cysticercosis complex. Both diseases are caused by the same worms at different stages of life. Cysticercosis is caused by the larvae of tapeworms, called cysticerci.

In Brazil, the taeniasis-cysticercosis complex is a serious health problem.

Life cycle

The tapeworm's life cycle can be summarized in the following steps:

  1. Tapeworm eggs are shed in the feces of contaminated humans. In this way, they can contaminate soil, water and food;
  2. Tapeworm eggs can be ingested by intermediate hosts. In this case, the pig or the ox;
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  4. In the organism of intermediate hosts, eggs develop into larvae that lodge in tissues;
  5. Man can be contaminated by consuming pork or beef contaminated by larvae;
  6. When the larvae are consumed by man, they lodge in the small intestine and evolve into an adult form, causing taeniasis;
  7. An infected human can shed millions of free eggs in feces, which can survive in the environment for several months.

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The transmission of taeniasis occurs through the consumption of raw or undercooked meat. Meat under these conditions may contain the cysticerci.

In the case of cysticercosis, transmission occurs when animals directly eat feces contaminated by eggs. It can also occur when humans or animals eat food or drink water contaminated with the feces of tapeworm carriers.


In most cases, taeniasis is asymptomatic.

The symptoms that appear are: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal cramps, weight loss and malaise.

Some changes may also arise, such as: insomnia, irritability and restlessness.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment consists of using antiparasitic drugs, as prescribed by the doctor.

Among the prevention measures, the following stand out:

  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meat.
  • Only consume treated water.
  • Wash hands thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before meals.
  • Wash food such as vegetables, fruits and vegetables well.
  • Do not fertilize crops with human feces.
  • Build toilets with a septic tank.

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