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Taenia Saginata (Beef Tapeworm) Infection

By

Richard D. Pearson

, MD, University of Virginia School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Mar 2020| Content last modified Mar 2020
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Infection with the beef tapeworm, Taenia saginata, may cause mild gastrointestinal 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 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 US cattle and is monitored by federal inspection.

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

  • 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

  • Praziquantel

  • Alternatively, niclosamide (outside the US)

Treatment of T. saginata infection 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 (maximum dose 2 g) once.

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

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.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

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BILTRICIDE
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