Sources for beef tapeworm (also known as Taenia saginata) are raw or undercooked beef, if it contains a cysticercus.
This is a small cyst that contains a live scolex, a head of the beef tapeworm. When a human ingests this with the raw meat, it hooks onto the inside of the intestinal wall. From there the tape worm matures by growing the neck and the proglottides (=segments) that contain the hermaphroditic sex organs, and the pregnant, egg containing uterus (see life cycle image, thanks to www.stanford.edu for this image)
The last segment is always shed while the other end grows so that the overall length stays about the same for years (about 2 to 3 feet) unless the patient gets treated. This infection is uncommon in the U.S. as federal inspectors monitor the cattle. However, in Mexico, South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe it is common in cattle.
Signs and symptoms
Unexplained weight loss may be the only sign that the patient has a beef tapeworm. If the patient is observant, and a whitish segment that moves slightly is found in the stool, the doctor can order to have this analyzed in a laboratory. Sometimes the patient has abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Feces can be examined for eggs from ruptured segments or the gravid segments filled with eggs can be seen. A clear, self adhesive tape can be used to obtain egg samples from skin around the anal area, which reveals the eggs under the microscope.
Beef tape worm infestation can be prevented by cooking beef at 56°C (=133°F) for 5 minutes; refuse to eat tartare (raw beef)!
A single dose of praziquantel (brand name: Biltricide) is effective. Alternatively niclosamide can be given as a one dose treatment. Either of these drugs allows the patient to pass a dead tapeworm in 90% of all cases.
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