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Taeniasis FAQs

What is taeniasis?

Taeniasis in humans is a parasitic infection caused by the tapeworm species Taenia saginata (beef tapeworm), Taenia solium (pork tapeworm), and Taenia asiatica (Asian tapeworm). Humans can become infected with these tapeworms by eating raw or undercooked beef (T. saginata) or pork (T. solium and T. asiatica). People with taeniasis may not know they have a tapeworm infection because symptoms are usually mild or nonexistent.

T. solium tapeworm infections can lead to cysticercosis, which is a disease that can cause seizures, so it is important seek treatment.

More on: cysticercosis

Where does taeniasis occur?

Taenia saginata and T. solium are found worldwide. Infections with T. saginata occur wherever contaminated raw beef is eaten, particularly in Eastern Europe, Russia, eastern Africa and Latin America. Taeniasis due to T. saginata is rare in the United States, except in places where cattle and people are concentrated and sanitation is poor, such as around feed lots where cattle can be exposed to human feces. Tapeworm infections due to T. solium are more prevalent in under-developed communities with poor sanitation and where people eat raw or undercooked pork. Higher rates of illness have been seen in people in Latin America, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Asia. Taenia solium taeniasis is seen in the United States, typically among Latin American immigrants. Taenia asiatica is limited to Asia and is seen mostly in the Republic of Korea, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Thailand.

What are the signs and symptoms of taeniasis?

Most people with tapeworm infections have no symptoms or mild symptoms. Patients with T. saginata taeniasis often experience more symptoms that those with T. solium or T. asiatica infections because the T. saginata tapeworm is larger in size (up to 10 meters (m)) than the other two tapeworms (usually 3 m). Tapeworms can cause digestive problems including abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, and upset stomach. The most visible sign of taeniasis is the active passing of proglottids (tapeworm segments) through the anus and in the feces. In rare cases, tapeworm segments become lodged in the appendix, or the bile and pancreatic ducts.

Infection with T. solium tapeworms can result in human cysticercosis, which can be a very serious disease that can cause seizures and muscle or eye damage.

Taenia saginata does not cause cysticercosis in humans. It is not clear if T. asiatica causes cysticercosis in humans or not.

Is taeniasis common?

Taeniasis is under-reported in a significant portion of the world because diagnosis is difficult in resource-poor settings. The number of new cases in the U.S. each year is probably less than 1000, but an exact number is not known.

What should I do if I think I have taeniasis?

Contact your health care provider for proper diagnosis and care.

Is medication available to treat taeniasis?

Yes. Praziquantel is the drug of choice. Niclosamide is an alternative drug. See your health care provider for proper diagnosis and care.

How did I get taeniasis?

Eating raw or undercooked contaminated beef or pork is the primary risk factor for acquiring taeniasis. Because of this, certain groups with dietary restrictions for these meats may have a lower risk of taeniasis.

 
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  • Page last reviewed: January 10, 2013
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