A "wormy" subject..


 T. saginata photo taken by Carolyn Temanson

Taeniasis is the human pathology caused by the beef tapeworm Taenia saginata.  It is acquired from ingesting undercooked beef that is encysted with the larval stage of the tapeworm in the muscle fibers of cattle, also known as measly beef or Beef Measles.”  Taeniasis is more commonly found in parts of the world like Ethiopia and Argentina, because in these countries it is common for people to eat undercooked and raw beef.  Although, in general Taenia saginata infestation is has a world wide distribution depending on these two factors: how frequent beef is eaten and poor sanitation.


Look at this link at a person's real small intestine infected with a tapeworm!


When digested by the terminal host (the human), T. saginata will tend to stay in the gastrointestinal tract.  A human infected by the beef tapeworm tends to be asymptomatic or having minor complications.  Some symptoms are as followed: intestinal upset, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, hunger pains, diarrhea, constipation, or chronic indigestion.  The main symptom that is usually always noticed first, is the pieces of proglottids found in an infected human’s feces.  Taenia saginata doesn’t cause a lot discomfort and the reason being is that it connects with such little surface area of the epithelial lining of the intestine.  The suckers of the scolex induce little immunological response. 



The main diagnostic factor is the presence of proglottids being passed through the feces.   It is hard to see with the naked eye, what specific species the proglottid would have originated from.  To make the distinction, the proglottids must be looked at under a microscope.  Taeina saginata’s uterus branches and stems out from its center forming 12 to 20 branches.  This is different from its closest relative Taenia solium, where there is a difference of size and number of the uterus branches. There are fewer branches and the uterus branches are thicker.  

T. saginata proglottid showing the thinner and more plentiful uterus branching T. saginata  T. solium proglottid showing the thicker branching and less plentiful uterus branching. T. solium

 Now the unlike the asymptomatic condition caused by T. saginata, its cousin Taenia solium can become quite severe and life threatening.  Taenia solium will use the human as an intermediate host and will end up forming larval cysts in the brain, also known as Neurocysticercosis. 

 T. solium forms cysts in the human, using them as an intermediate host, causing Neurocysticercosis.

Another possible relative that infects both human and domesticated animals would be the Echinococcus granulosus.  This is a close relative of both T. saginata and T. solium being from the same family, Taeniidae.  Follow the link to read more on how it can cause problems and disease in carnivores, including humans. 


There are two types of medications that are used to treat individuals infected with the Beef Tapeworm. 


This medication is a nonabsorbable oxidative phosphorylation inhibitor.  This acts to kill the anterior portion that connects to the inner epithelial lining of the intestine, including the scolex.  This will then allow the tapeworm to be passed out entirely through the feces.  This is the drug choice with this parasitic infection because the curing rate is at a high 95%. 


This is a synthetic medication derived from isoquinoline-pyrazine.  This is a comparable medication to Niclosamide, being almost as equally effective and fairly nontoxic.  This is not as effect though because the scolex isn’t always destroyed.  This means that a new worm can grow back from that connected scolex.  Patients using this treatment must be watched for a month of two afterwards to make sure that the tapeworm proglottids don’t start showing up again in their feces.  


Click here for more detailed information on tapeworm infestation and its treatment. 


Public Health and Prevention Strategies

Now, Taeniasis has a world wide distribution because it is found where beef is eaten and in places of poor sanitation.  This would include the United States as a possible area to have T. saginata infestation. Public Health laws have been passed that requires all meat to be inspected before it is allowed to be used for human consumption.  The grazing of cattle is also checked routinely of marketed cattle to make sure that they are not eating in contaminated areas.  Also, to prevent vegetation contamination, the disposal of human fecal matter must be dealt with properly.


Finally, prevention has to with your own personal actions.  The first main factor is just cooking beef thoroughly, so the larval cysts if present would be killed. The second and as equally important aspect is practicing good hygiene like washing your hands.  This would prevent the spread of of the microscopic eggs and infecting others.