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Taeniasis is a form of tapeworm infection which is caused by tapeworms of the genus Taenia. The worm remains in the intestine until it reaches a length of about 3 feet (1 metre or so). The two most important human pathogens in the genus are Taenia solium (the pork tapeworm) and Taenia saginata (the beef tapeworm). Infection is acquired by eating undercooked beef and pork that contain the fluid-filled cysticercuses of either tapeworm species. The adult worms live in the lumen of the intestine where it causes very few symptoms. It absorbs all its nutrients directly from the host's small intestine, which in some cases can leave the patient with depleted strength. The eggs of the worm break off in the form of segments, known as gravid proglottids, from the mature worm and pass out in the faeces of the infected person. If they are consumed by an intermediate host such as a cow or pig, these oncospheres hatch within the duodenum under the presence of gastric juices and penetrate through the intestinal wall into nearby blood vessels, where they then enter the bloodstream. Upon reaching a suitable site (often within the skeletal muscles, liver or lungs of the intermediate host) these larvae then develop into a cyst, which then becomes a fluid-filled cysticercus. When this contaminated tissue is consumed raw or undercooked by a human, the worm matures in the patient's small intestine.
Taeniasis is generally asymptomatic and is diagnosed when a portion of the worm is passed in the stool. Oral anti-parasitic drugs such as praziquantel are the treatment of choice.
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