Intestinal tapeworm infection It is common among people who eat undercooked beef or pork. Second information published by World Health Organization (WHO), THE tapeworm (medical name of this parasitic disease) causes digestive disorders and neurological complications in the most severe cases.
How does the infection happen? What are the types of tapeworms that infect humans? These and other questions can arise when talking about this parasite. Next, we detail the most relevant aspects.
meet the parasite
Tapeworm It is a genus of parasitic flatworms of the tapeworm class. They are extracellular endoparasites, as they live inside their host, but they fail to work at the cellular level, as is the case with viruses.
They have a complex life cycle and, depending on the stage that causes the disease, two diseases can occur in the affected individual.
- Adult tapeworms cause taeniasis when they become lodged in the intestine of the definitive host.
- The larval and juvenile forms produce cysticercosis, an even more serious pathology that occurs when they are localized in various organs and tissues of the affected person.
In its adult form, tapeworms have the form of flattened and clearly segmented worms. in your head or scolex They have a series of hooks, which allow them to make the oral apparatus adhere to the walls of the patient’s intestine and to be nourished by the food that passes through it.
a complex cycle
Second THE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Human taeniasis is caused by three species:
- Taenia saginata or had cattle.
- Taenia solium or had cattle.
- Some sort of Asian origin, Asian tapeworm.
Importantly, humans are the only definitive host of this parasite, unlike many other diseases transmitted from animals to people. To simplify its complex biological cycle, we can summarize the phases in three different ones.
- An infected human passes eggs or segments of the adult tapeworm in their feces, releasing them into the soil, where they can remain for up to months.
- Pigs and cows can accidentally consume these eggs and, over time, the larval forms settle in the tissues of the animals giving rise to cysticercosis.
- Humans ingest these infected meats from the juvenile forms, and one of them develops as an adult in the intestinal tract, closing the cycle.
human feces – meat of infected pigs or cows – intestines
Symptoms of a tapeworm infection
Most cases of tapeworm infection are asymptomatic. However, there are those who have gastrointestinal alterations and other complications. Clinical manifestations of taeniasis include the following:
- Abdominal pain and loss of appetite.
- Progressive weight loss with no apparent explanation.
- General stomach pain.
This symptomatology does not appear until the animal is large. Unless a stool culture is done (where adult tapeworm eggs can be seen), an infected patient can have years of tapeworms without realizing it.
Quite different is the case of cysticercosis, a pathology produced only by Taenia solium. In this case, the human being is not infected by eating meat with the larvae, but by directly ingesting the eggs.
Thus, the parasite confuses humans with the intermediate host (pig or cow) and produces cysticercosis, or tissue invasion of the larvae, in the human body. It should be noted that this is not the natural tapeworm cycle.
The clinical picture differs markedly, depending on the affected tissues. But when the larvae settle in the brain, the neurological symptoms are decisive in detecting the disease. These include the following:
- Constant and strong headaches.
- Epileptic attacks.
- Memory loss.
Prevention and cure
Both cysticercosis and taeniasis can be treated with antiparasitic drugs. Especially in the first pathology, the prognosis is very positive. Cysticercosis sometimes requires surgery and, if left untreated, can cause death within a short time.
The best prevention is, as in almost all cases, good food hygiene and control. This is why these intestinal parasites are so rare in high-income countries; Food is strictly controlled, and meat with cysticercosis is not put on sale.
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