Taeniasis - Symptoms, causes and treatment

Taeniasis is a disease caused by tapeworm infection. Although this parasitic infection can be treated easily, it can spread to other organs of the body and have the potential to cause serious health problems.

Symptoms of Taeniasis

Most people with taeniasis have no signs or symptoms. This condition can only be known when you see the presence of worms in the stool. Tapeworms are often seen as flat and rectangular, pale yellow or white in color, about the size of a grain of rice. Sometimes worms can also fuse together and form long chains. The existence of these worms can move around.

Symptoms that can appear in tapeworm infection in the intestine are:

  • Nauseous
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Stomach ache.
  • I want to eat salty food.
  • Weight loss due to impaired absorption of food.
  • Dizzy.

Some people with taeniasis can also experience irritation in the area around the anus or where the adult eggs come out.

Meanwhile, the symptoms of a severe infection, where the worm eggs have moved out of the intestines and form larval cysts in body tissues and other organs, are:

  • Headache.
  • Allergic reaction to larvae.
  • Symptoms on the nervous system, such as seizures.
  • A lump is formed.

Causes of Taeniasis

Taeniasis occurs when tapeworm eggs or larvae are in the human intestine. The entry of tapeworm eggs or larvae can be through:

  • Eating pork, beef, or freshwater fish that is not fully cooked.
  • Consuming dirty water that contains worm larvae, as a result of being contaminated with infected human or animal feces.
  • Having close contact with people with tapeworm infections, for example through clothing contaminated with feces containing worm eggs.

Tapeworms that are transmitted through beef are called Taenia saginata, while those through pork are called Taenia solium.

Adult tapeworms can grow up to 25 meters long, and can survive in the human intestine for up to 30 years unnoticed. Any part of the tapeworm's body can produce eggs which are excreted from the body through feces after the tapeworm grows up. Spread through contact with feces containing tapeworms can occur if personal and environmental hygiene is not maintained properly.

Several factors can put a person at risk of suffering from taeniasis are:

  • Being in an environment with poor sanitation.
  • Travel to or live in endemic areas or countries where you frequently eat pork, beef or freshwater fish contaminated with tapeworms.
  • Have a weak immune system, so it can't fight infection. This condition is common in people with HIV AIDS, diabetes, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and patients undergoing organ transplants.

Diagnosis of Taeniasis

To diagnose taeniasis, the doctor will perform several examinations, namely:

  • Stool sample analysis. Stool samples were taken for examination in the laboratory using a microscope to identify the presence of eggs or body parts of tapeworms in the feces. A sample of tapeworm eggs can also be taken from the anal area.
  • Complete blood test. This test aims to see antibodies in the body that react to tapeworm infection.
  • Imaging test. Doctors may use several imaging tests, such as CT scans, X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound, to identify severe infections.

Taeniasis Treatment

After the patient is diagnosed with taeniasis, the doctor will treat it with oral medication. The drugs commonly given for taeniasis are:

  • Anthelmintic drugs. This medicine can kill tapeworms. The example is pyrantel pamoate or. Anthelmintic drugs will be given as a single drink, but can also be taken within a few weeks until the infection clears. Dead tapeworms will come out with feces. Although effective, anthelmintic drugs can cause side effects, such as dizziness and heartburn
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs. Dead tapeworm cysts can make tissues or organs become swollen and inflamed. To overcome this, the doctor can give corticosteroid drugs.
  • Antiseizure drugs. This drug is given to patients with teniasis who have seizures.

If the infection causes fluid to build up in the brain or hydrocephalus, the doctor will install a permanent drain to drain the fluid. Meanwhile, if tapeworm cysts develop in the liver, lungs, or eyes, the doctor will perform a surgical procedure to remove them, because the cysts can interfere with organ function.

To make sure the treatment is effective, the doctor will recommend a stool sample examination after the treatment is completed. If there are no eggs, larvae, or body parts of tapeworms, then the treatment is considered successful and the patient is free from worm infection. In addition, a scan with X-rays or or ultrasound can also be done to make sure the drug is working effectively.

Complications of Taeniasis

Complications that can arise from taeniasis are:

  • Indigestion. If it has grown large, tapeworms have the potential to inhibit and infect the appendix, and interfere with the bile duct and pancreas.
  • Impaired organ function. This is because the larvae move to the liver, lungs, or other organs to form cysts. Over time, the cyst grows in size and obstructs blood flow and organ function.
  • Disorders of the brain or central nervous system (neurocysticercosis). Examples are meningitis, hydrocephalus, and dementia. If the infection is very severe, it can cause death.

Prevention of Taeniasis

There are several steps that can be taken to prevent taeniasis, namely:

  • Avoid eating fish and meat (especially pork) that are not fully cooked.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables, and cook food thoroughly before eating.
  • For those who have farms, make a good sewerage, not to pollute the water used for consumption purposes.
  • Take your pet to the vet if it has tapeworms.
  • Wash your hands with soap before and after handling food, before eating, and after using the toilet.