Tapeworms in Humans: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Ebony Potts

Ebony has taught middle and high school physical science, life science & biology. She's also been an assistant principal and has a doctorate in educational administration.

Have you ever heard of a tapeworm? In this lesson, you will learn about tapeworms and how they can infect humans. You will also learn how a tapeworm infection is treated and how it can be prevented.

Rare, Medium or Well Done?

Have you ever been to a really good steakhouse restaurant with a group of friends? If you have, then you know that there are lots of ways people like their steaks cooked. Some like their steaks rare, which is barely cooked. Some people like their steaks well done. Other people like their steaks and other meats prepared somewhere in the middle of rare and well done.

If you've ever been to a supermarket in the United States and purchased a package of meat, you will notice that the meat has a label encouraging you to cook the meat until it is well done. Why is such a label placed on a package of meat? Cooking your meat until it is well done can keep you from getting a foodborne illness. One particular illness that cooking your meat to the right temperature can prevent is a tapeworm infection.

What is a Tapeworm


Tapeworms are members of a class of invertebrates known as Cestoda. These parasitic flatworms are present all over the world and can range in size from around .04 inches to more than 50 feet long. Parasites are organisms that live off of a host (another organism) to the detriment of the host. As intestinal parasites, tapeworms infect invertebrates and vertebrates alike. They commonly infect fish, dogs, cats, cows, pigs and humans.

Tapeworms are bilaterally symmetrical (the right and left of the worm are similar). The head of the worm is called a scolex, which has has suckers and often hooks used to attach to the host. The body of the tapeworm is covered by a tough cuticle through which it absorbs its food. Tapeworms have the reproductive organs of both the female and the male and can self-fertilize.


The most common way that people become infected by tapeworms is by eating undercooked meat. After tapeworm eggs are fertilized, the embryos leave the host in their feces. If the embryos are eaten by a mammal, the larva will end up in the digestive tract. Once in the intestines, the larva bores through the intestinal wall into a blood vessel and makes its way to the muscle tissue. This is how eating undercooked meat can cause infection. If an organism eats the undercooked flesh of an animal that contains tapeworm larvae, the larvae will find the host's intestines, attach to the intestinal wall, and develop into adults.


Sometimes, a person infected by a tapeworm may not have any symptoms. Those who show symptoms of tapeworm infection report experiencing nausea, weight loss, fatigue, hunger or loss of appetite, weakness, diarrhea, and nutritional deficiencies.

In rare cases, tapeworms can lead to serious health issues, including a blockage in the intestine. Pork tapeworm eggs can migrate to other parts of the body and damage the eyes, liver, brain and heart.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account