Cysticercosis (Pork Tapeworm, Taeniasis)
Cysticercosis and taeniasis are two different diseases caused by the tapeworm, Taenia solium—a parasite of pigs and humans. Taeniasis is an intestinal infection with the adult tapeworm and occurs only in humans. Cysticercosis is an infection of people or pigs and occurs when tapeworm larva become enclosed in a cyst in muscles or other tissues. A person who eats raw or inadequately cooked pork that contains the cysts will develop taeniasis. Persons with taeniasis shed tapeworm eggs in their feces. A pig or person who eats the tapeworm eggs can develop cysticercosis. Persons with taeniasis typically have few or mild symptoms such as abdominal pain and weight loss. Persons with cysticercosis also can have mild symptoms, but if the larvae form cysts in the brain (called “neurocysticercosis”) the infected person can experience headaches, seizures, and other severe symptoms.
Although the pork tapeworm is common in many parts of the world, U.S. regulations and husbandry practices have virtually eliminated the parasite from commercial pork in the United States. All pig meat—especially from wild swine or those raised outside the U.S.—should be thoroughly cooked before eating. Washing hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before handling food is an essential part of good food hygiene, especially when traveling in developing countries.