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Pork tapeworm: the danger of an animal parasite in humans
Pork tapeworm: the danger of an animal parasite in humans

Pork tapeworm (translated from Latin as armed tapeworm, Taenia solium) is a helminth, the causative agent of diseases such as cysticercosis and teniasis, it is referred to as tapeworms.

A disease such as teniasis is still relevant today, despite the fact that the incidence rate is not so high. This is due to the fact that there are regions in which cases of the disease continue to be registered, and their frequency is not decreasing today. These are such regions as the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Republic of Tyva, Kalmykia, and the Urals.

Doctors attach particular importance to the prevention of infection with pork tapeworm, because this parasite often leads to disability and disability of a person.

Tapeworm life cycle

In the life cycle of an armed tapeworm, two main stages are distinguished:

  1. Sexually mature - existence in the body of the final host;
  2. Larval - existence in the organism of an intermediate host.

This stage can also be divided into several sub-stages:

  • The larval stage, in another way it is called the oncosphere, is formed in the egg when it is still in the segment. It has the appearance of a ball with a diameter of only 10 micrometers and has three pairs of hooks. The oncosphere is surrounded by a membrane on which cilia are sometimes found;
  • the next stage is Finna. The larva turns into Finn in the intestines of the intermediate host. Finn's pork tapeworm has a diameter of 7-10 mm. Outwardly, it looks like a bubble, in size it can be compared to a pea. The bladder is filled with liquid and contains an inward-facing head with hooks for attachment.

The final owner of the tapeworm is a person who can become infected from a sick person who has mature tapeworm segments with eggs in the feces. Once in the environment, the membrane of the segments is destroyed, and their contents enter the soil, grass, water.

The intermediate owner is domestic pigs. Eating the feces of a sick person or contaminated feed, they can swallow the eggs of the worm. Sometimes, not domestic pigs, but wild animals, as well as carnivores, can become intermediate hosts.

A person can become infected with pork tapeworm by eating raw pork infected with cysticercosis, or pork that has not undergone the necessary heat treatment. In the process of development of the disease, a sexually mature individual grows from the larva, secreting eggs. Eggs, in turn, enter the external environment with feces. Thus, the life cycle of the worm is closed.

Due to the fact that immunity in the human body to teniasis is not developed, the susceptibility to this disease is quite high. In Russia, cases of infection with an armed tapeworm are recorded mainly in places where a pig farm is developed. Along with Russia, infections are also recorded in Belarus, Kazakhstan, North America, India, Africa, China and Ukraine.

The clinical picture of teniasis in humans

The harmful effect of the worm is formed from mechanical impact, eating the food of its owner and the toxic effect on the human body due to the waste products of the tapeworm. As a result, the symptoms of teniasis can be very nonspecific and varied.

The specificity of the disease is such that the first symptoms occur in humans only when the disease passes into the chronic stage, by which time the tapeworm has already grown into a sexually mature individual.

Patients notice the following symptoms:

  • weakness;
  • increased irritability;
  • an appetite disorder, and immediately after infection, the appetite increases sharply, there is frequent overeating, but the patient does not gain weight, rather, on the contrary, he loses; after some time, the appetite decreases, the patient returns to his previous weight and further maintains it;
  • pain in different areas of the abdomen, often in the right;
  • nausea;
  • rumbling in the stomach;
  • vomit;
  • periodic increase in stool;
  • flatulence;
  • many note the presence of segments of the parasite in the feces;
  • some develop tongue inflammation - glossitis.

If the patient has a weakened immune system, then the following symptoms and conditions may develop:

  • neurological disorders;
  • dizziness;
  • headache;
  • fainting;
  • seizures;
  • sleep disturbance;
  • urticaria - appears in later stages as a result of the worm's activity.

Cysticercosis is considered a dangerous and severe complication of teniasis. This is a disease in which the development of the finnose stage of the helminth occurs in the human body, as a result of which the patient turns into an intermediate host.

A person infected with pork tapeworm is always at risk of developing cysticercosis.

Methods for diagnosing tapeworm in humans

Doctors say that it is difficult to diagnose teniasis and cysticercosis due to the fact that the diseases do not have symptoms characteristic only of them.

It is extremely important to ask the patient in detail about the following points:

  • Where does the patient work;
  • What food does he eat;
  • Has he traveled to the countryside in the past few months;
  • Have contact with infected people;
  • Did the patient notice the presence of segments in the feces (doctors often have photographs of worms, which they show to patients).

After talking with the patient and finding out the main symptoms, the doctor will ask him to take the joints for analysis. At the same time, often the elderly, children, adolescents and those who work in the food industry can keep silent about such a symptom as the allocation of joints.

The patient will also be offered a complete blood count.

If there is a suspicion of cysticercosis of the central nervous system, specialists will refer the patient to MRI and CT, as well as to study the cerebrospinal fluid.

Cysticercosis of skeletal muscle and skin can be diagnosed by biopsy of the tumor and sometimes by x-ray.

Cysticercosis of the eyes is detected by ophthalmoscopy.

Cysticercosis of the heart and lungs is established by the results of a chest x-ray.

Pork tapeworm treatment

For the treatment of teniasis, health organizations have approved the following drugs:

  • praziquantel (Biltricide);
  • niclosamide ("Fenasal").

Praziquantel is often prescribed in combination with some kind of effective laxative. The dosage in adults and children is calculated according to the same formula: 5-10 mg per kilogram of weight.

This is a single dose. Two hours later, a laxative is taken in order to hatch mature individuals before they release eggs. There have been cases of surgical removal of a mature worm.

Niclosamide has not yet been registered in Russia. The scheme of its use is as follows: for adults 2 g of medicine per kilogram of weight, and for children 50 mg per kilogram of weight.

Cysticercosis (especially neurocysticercosis) is treated with albendazole, which is combined with glucocorticosteroids (glucocorticoids).

Treatment takes place under the constant supervision of a doctor.

Treatment with praziquantel is also possible. But its use can affect the development of the inflammatory process, as well as the worsening of symptoms. In addition, praziquantel is contraindicated in pregnant women and with cysticercosis of the eyes.

As for the treatment of cysticercosis, it is still being studied and refined. However, no matter what the treatment of this disease is carried out, it must necessarily take place in a hospital.

Cysticercosis of the eyes and single cysticercus of the nervous system are treated surgically. And after the operation, glucocorticosteroids and praziquantel are prescribed.

The effectiveness of treatment is determined by analyzing the stool a month or two after the patient has completed the full course of treatment.

Prevention of infection with pork tapeworm

As for personal prevention, here the main preventive measures are:

  • Compliance with sanitary standards;
  • Do not eat meat that has not passed sanitary and veterinary control;
  • Do not eat meat that has not undergone sufficient heat treatment.

There is also public prevention, it is as follows:

  • Control over the slaughter of livestock at meat processing plants and slaughterhouses;
  • Inspection of carcasses (rejection);
  • Fight against frequent slaughter of livestock and the sale of meat that has not been veterinarily examined.

If the regulatory authorities have identified infected meat, it is subjected to immediate technical disposal and processing it into non-food products such as soap, fertilizers and others.

If an insignificant amount of Finns was found in the meat, then it is allowed to be cooked for a long time and sold as canned food.

Other preventive measures include sanitary and educational work, measures to prevent infection of pigs, to identify and treat infectious patients, especially those involved in animal husbandry, to protect the environment from the ingestion of human waste products and to improve toilets.

Monitor your diet and personal hygiene carefully and stay healthy!

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