Tapeworm: how do you catch it? And how to get rid of it?

the essential
The tapeworm is a parasite that is caught by eating raw or undercooked meat. This is why, in order to avoid this repugnant parasitosis, although benign, it is imperative to cook the meat thoroughly. Or at least freeze it enough. Explanations.

The solitary worm, also called taenia or tapeworm, is a parasite that can lodge in the human digestive tract, and more precisely in the small intestine, against the walls of which it attaches. There, like any parasite, it feeds on the food of its host to survive, being able to reach 10 meters in length and live 30 to 40 years in the human body. How does it infect humans? In reality, it is the host who involuntarily causes it to enter his body through his diet. But not just any.

Meat, fish and gardening

Tapeworm eggs are disseminated in nature (mud, pastures, etc.), can be read on the website of the Digestive Endoscopy Clinic DDG, in Belgium. Thus, when a bovine animal, a pig or a fish consumes them, it then digests the embryos which are found throughout the body of the intermediate host animal via the bloodstream. At this time, the larvae lodge in the muscles of the animal. These muscles make up the meat we eat. Several animal species carry various types of tapeworms. Thus, the Tapeworm saginata is transmitted via beef, the Tapeworm solium comes from pork meat and the fish Tapeworm is present in the flesh of freshwater fish.

In any case, it is the consumption of raw or undercooked meat that allows the tapeworm to settle in the consumer’s digestive tract. This is why it is imperative, as the editors of the latest issue of Prescrire remind us, to cook the meat thoroughly, at least 60° C for a few minutes, or to freeze it at -15° C for about 7 days. Avoid minced meat and instead favor whole and intact pieces of meat, adds the site of the Belgian clinic.

How do you know if you are infested?

Although the tapeworm infestation is most often mild and asymptomatic, it nevertheless happens that mainly digestive symptoms occur, such as nausea, epigastric pain, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or even pruritus ani. Weight loss as well as anemia or vitamin B12 deficiency, detected during a blood test, can also be observed. The presence of rings or white filaments in your stool should also alert.

Once the presence of the tapeworm is confirmed by microscopic examination of the stool on three samples collected on different days, treatment is easy and effective. The doctor prescribes an antihelminthic drug, that is to say an antiparasitic or vermifuge, orally in a single dose. This kills the parasite which, once dead, is passed out through the stool.

The infestation can also be caused by gardening. Especially if the person picked up infected dog or fox feces and did not wash their hands before bringing them to their face or handling food.

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