Taenia Saginata (Beef Tapeworm) Infection

ByChelsea Marie, PhD, University of Virginia;
William A. Petri, Jr, MD, PhD, University of Virginia School of Medicine
Reviewed/Revised Nov 2023
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Infection with the beef tapeworm, Taenia saginata

Cattle are intermediate hosts for T. saginata. Humans are infected by

  • Eating cysticerci (larval form) in raw or undercooked beef

The larvae mature in approximately 2 months to adult worms that can live for several years; usually, only 1 or 2 adult worms are present. Adult T. saginata tapeworms are usually 4 to 12 meters in length, but can be as long as 25 meters.

T. saginata 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 United States cattle and is monitored by federal inspection.

Symptoms and Signs of Taenia saginata Infection

Patients may be asymptomatic or have mild digestive symptoms including epigastric discomfort, nausea, flatulence, diarrhea, or hunger pains. Passage of a motile segment (proglottid) often brings an otherwise asymptomatic patient to medical attention.

Diagnosis of Taenia saginata Infection

  • Microscopic examination of stool for ova and proglottids

The stool should be examined for proglottids and ova; ova may also be present on anal swabs. The ova of T. saginata are indistinguishable from those of T. solium (pork tapeworm) and T. asiatica, as are the clinical features and management of intestinal infections due to these 3 tapeworms.

Treatment of Taenia saginata Infection

  • Alternatively, niclosamide (outside the United States)

Treatment of T. saginataCenters for Disease Control and Prevention: Parasites - Taeniasis). Alternatively, niclosamide, outside of the United States.

Treatment can be considered successful when no Taenia ova are identified in stool 1 and 3 months after treatment.

Prevention of Taenia saginata Infection

T. saginata infection can be prevented by cooking whole cuts of beef to ≥ 63° C (≥ 145° F) as measured with a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, then allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming. Ground beef should be cooked to ≥ 71° C (≥ 160° F). Ground beef does not require a rest period.

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