Infection with the beef tapeworm, Taenia saginata, may cause mild GI upset or passage of a motile segment in the stool. It is treated with praziquantel.
Cattle are intermediate hosts for T. saginata. Humans are infected by eating cysticerci (larval form) in raw or undercooked beef. The larvae mature in about 2 mo to adult worms that can live for several years; usually, only 1 or 2 adult worms are present.
Infection occurs worldwide but especially in cattle-raising regions of the tropics and subtropics in Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Mexico, and South America. Infection is uncommon in US cattle and is monitored by federal inspection.
Patients may be asymptomatic or have mild digestive symptoms. Passage of a motile segment often brings an otherwise asymptomatic patient to medical attention.
The stool should be examined for proglottids and eggs; eggs may also be present on anal swabs. The ova of T. saginata are indistinguishable from those of T. solium (pork tapeworm), as are the clinical features and management of intestinal infections due to the 2 tapeworms.
Treatment is with a single oral dose of praziquantel 5 or 10 mg/kg. Alternatively, a single 2-g dose of niclosamide (not available in the US) is given as 4 tablets (500 mg each) that are chewed one at a time and swallowed with a small amount of water. For children, the dose of niclosamide is 50 mg/kg once. Both drugs have cure rates of about 90%.
Treatment can be considered successful when no proglottids are passed for 4 mo.
Last full review/revision August 2013 by Richard D. Pearson, MD
Content last modified October 2013