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parasitic InfectionsParasitology

Beef tapeworm, Lifecycle, Clinical Signs, Diagnosis and Treatment


Beef tapeworm also called Taenia saginata is a long segmented tape like worm. It tends to grow in length up to 10 meters. It is white in color and its body consists of a head, a neck and segments (proglottids). Its eggs are liberated by rupture of ripe proglottids. Eggs are oval and brown in color.

Life cycle of Beef tapeworm.

The definitive host of tapeworm is human. The tapeworm infection is more common in rural environment. Life cycle starts with the passage of eggs along with the feces of definitive host (man) on ground. These eggs contaminate the grass and grazing site. When an intermediate host, usually a cow feeds on this contaminated grass, the eggs enter its alimentary canal.

In Cattle:

In the alimentary canal of host, eggs rupture and oncospheres are liberated. These oncospheres penetrate the intestinal wall and enter the portal blood circulation. Via portal circulation they go to liver, right heart and then to the lungs. From the lungs they reach the left heart chambers and finally go into the aorta. Aorta carry the blood to all parts of the body and oncospheres are filtered out in the muscular tissues, they settle there and grow. Most commonly affected muscles are, muscles of tongue, neck, shoulder and hamstrings. In the muscular tissue, the oncosphere loses its hooks and converts into a vesicle. This vesicle contains a cysticercus larva. The cysticercus larva changes its shape and converts into cysticercus bevis. Cysticercus bevis can live in the flesh of cow for approximately a month.

In human:

Human beings are infected by consuming undercooked infected beef meat. Cysticercus containing meat when reaches small intestine and come in contact with bile, the cysticercus release Scolex. Scolex has suckers and with the help of these suckers it attaches itself to the gut wall. Scolex soon develops into an adult worm. Adult worm produces eggs. Eggs are passed along with the feces. And when a cow feeds on contaminated grass, life cycles starts again.

Life cycle of beef tapeworm taenia saginata

How does tapeworm cause disease?

Tapeworm attaches itself to the intestinal wall and obtains its nourishment. It causes inflammation of intestinal wall and GI disturbances.

Clinical Findings

Tapeworm infection can be asymptomatic or it may cause abdominal discomfort, indigestion, pain and loss of appetite. Sometimes it may obstruct the appendix, pancreatic or bile duct and cause appendicitis, pancreatitis or jaundice respectively. Tapeworm also absorb large amount of vitamin B12, so it may produces symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, such as paresthesia, confusion and difficulty in maintaining balance.


Specimen: Stool or Perianal swabs.

Macroscopic examination.

Whitish segments of the worm can be seen in the specimen of stool. If specimen is taken after anti-helmintic therapy then head may also be seen along with the segments.

Microscopic examination:

Under the microscope oval and brownish eggs of tapeworm can be seen. More over, if segments are found then these should be examined also to differentiate between tenia solium (porkworm) and tenia saginata (tapeworm)

Blood CP:

It will so raised eosinophilic count. (eosinophilia)

Treatment of tapeworm infection

Praziquantel and niclosamide are the antihelmentic drugs which have the curative rate of 85% to 98%. Mebendazole and albendazole are also used.

Vitamin B12 supplementation should be done. Vitamin B12 is easily available in syrup and tablet form.

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