Tapeworm: A threat to human health and its preventive measures

What is worm? “Any of numerous long, slender, soft-bodied, legless, bilaterally symmetrical invertebrates is known as worm”. There are different kinds of worms like (flat worms, roundworms, tapeworms). Among these, tapeworms are of great medical importance because tapeworms are the worms which transfer most from livestock to humans so having great zoonotic importance. Tapeworms are given such a name because of their tape like structure. Their body is divided into different segments known as proglottids.

Specialty of tapeworms is that every segment of tapeworm is a complete worm and can produce a new when detach from its own body. They are found in all habitats in river, lakes, banks, seas, fresh water and land. Their eggs are everywhere. Tapeworm`s life cycle has three stages that are egg, larvae and adult. Tapeworms have two host during their lifecycle, intermediate host in which larvae are present and the other is final host in which adult are present. Adult tapeworms attach themselves with intestinal internal lining and get their nourishment from there because tapeworms have no as such digestive system.

The most medical important species are (Taenia saginata spread to humans by eating beef, Taenia solium by eating pig meat, Diphylobothrium (D.) latum spread due to eating raw fish meat, Hymenolepis (H.) nana and Hymenolepsis diminuta.). The most important disease caused by tapeworms is Cysticercosis. It is caused by the Taenia specie, in this disease there is a cyst formation in the brain of the affected host. The result of this disease is brain damage and nervous breakdown and in coordination. H. nana is the smallest tapeworm which causes infection in the human body. An adult tapeworm is of size 2-2.5cm. It is also known as dwarf tapeworm, belongs to family Hymenolepididae.

This hymenolepsis specie is of great medical importance as H. nana is recently reported as a cause of cancer in humans. D. latum is the largest tapeworm of the humans, also known as broad tapeworm. It could be 10meters in length and contains about 3000 segments and each segment is 3micrometer long and 11micrometer broad. The name broad tapeworm is due to its body segments which are broader than its length. It is present in all the organisms that feed on fish because its intermediate host is fish and is present in the meat of fish.


The signs and symptoms caused by these tapeworms are nausea, diarrhea, weakness, abdominal pain, retarded growth and loss of appetite. Because of very fast multiplication in the intestines they can also cause obstruction in the intestines and lower gut parts. Larvae of these tapeworms move in the body of their intermediate host and reach to their predilection site and adopt cyst formation. Their predilection sites are eyes, brain, muscles and heart. Whenever human use these effected organs human also get these worms in their body and the life cycle of these tapeworms is completed.


When any of these clinical signs are seen in the human body one should immediately visit a doctor. Tape worms infestation is diagnosed by the examination of feces. If segments are seen in the stool then stool are send in the laboratory. If segments are seen then these segments are used for the identification tapeworm, segments are keenly checked their length and width helps a lot in identification. Generally the techniques used for the identification of worm are the examination of stool, examination of blood samples and the radiography of the effected or suspected organ. The easiest way of diagnosing worm infestation is by the means fecal eggs identification and count.


Different kinds of drugs are used for their prevention the most effective drug is Preziquental. It is available in different combination in the market.

Some preventive measures for the control of tapeworms are:

Always wash hand after coming from toilet.

Wash hand properly before eating.

Wash hands before handling edible materials.

Avoid undercooked meat.

Cook meat at 100°C for about one hour.

Wash vegetables before use.

The authors are associated with the Department of Parasitology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan.

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