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6-meter long tapeworm found in Vietnamese woman

6-meter long tapeworm found in Vietnamese woman

Monday, July 31, 2023, 10:02 GMT+7
6-meter long tapeworm found in Vietnamese woman
Samples of tapeworms on display at Dang Van Ngu Hospital in Hanoi. Photo: T. Loan / Tuoi Tre

Noticing moving white segments on her underwear, a young woman in Hanoi took some medication prescribed by a doctor before having a 6-meter-long Taenia saginata tapeworm removed from her body.

Believing that undercooked beef is better and more nourishing than cooked beef, T., 26, who lives in Hanoi, often opts for raw beef noodles and beef hotpot.

However, T. noticed something unusual: long white segments appearing and moving on her underwear.

In addition, T. noticed such strange things moving in her feces when she defecated.

After researching on the Internet, she suspected that they were parasites that came through the anus.

T. went to Dang Van Ngu Hospital in Hanoi, which is part of the National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology, and had them examined.

The results showed that both proglottids and eggs of Taenia saginata were found in the young woman’s stool sample.

Doctors then prescribed her some medications, which she took and thus discharged a 6-meter-long Taenia saginata tapeworm. 

While the Taenia saginata can move outside of the body, the Taenia solium cannot stir after being removed from the body in the stool.

Surviving in human body for 25 years

Although the cleanliness of the environment has improved significantly for years, Dr. Do Trung Dung from Dang Van Ngu Hospital said he has admitted many patients who needed to be examined for diseases related to parasites recently.

Tapeworm infection occurs nationwide in Vietnam, with infection rates ranging from 0.5 percent to 12 percent, mainly involving Taenia saginata (70-80 percent) and Taenia solium (10-20 percent). 

Generally, each tapeworm is 2-4 meters long, sometimes up to 10 meters.

Among the people who came to the hospital for health examination, about 20-30 percent suffer from tapeworm diseases such as clonorchiasis, opisthorchiasis or fascioliasis, Taenia saginata and Taenia solium.

According to Dr. Dung, the tapeworm looks like a ribbon with three parts when viewed from the outside.

The head part is shaped like a ball with four suckers, and the neck is often narrower. 

The body part of the parasite contains many segments, which can be divided into young, adult, and old bits depending on the growth period.

The young bits grow from the neck while the old can separate themselves.

In this way, full tapeworms that live in the human body grow dramatically by forming more segments from the neck, creating thousands of proglottids.

Such tapeworms can remain in the human body for up to 25 years. The length of an adult Taenia saginata tapeworm is about 4-12 meters. 

The worrying problem is that each detached old proglottid contains about 50,000 eggs, which can survive in the infection for a long time before finding new intermediate hosts.

Cooked food is a must

According to Dr. Dung, many people are infected with tapeworms because they eat undercooked food.

As a case in point, people contract the Taenia saginata when they eat undercooked beef contaminated with larval cysts.

After consumption by humans, the larvae of Taenia saginata emerge from the cysts under the influence of gastric acid and develop into adult tapeworms.

Thanks to the tapeworms' four suckers, they can cling tightly to the intestinal mucosa.

“Here, the tapeworms suck nutrients from the intestines to grow. Such parasites can survive for a long time since they can defend themselves against gastric juices,” the doctor explained. 

“Normally, a tapeworm lives in a human body and it often takes about three months for a larva in the body to develop into an adult tapeworm."

A person who has a tapeworm infection often suffers from indigestion, long-lasting abdominal pain, and a constant feeling of discomfort and irritation in the intestines.

Doctors warn that it is possible for everyone to get infected with Taenia saginata.

So, to protect oneself from the disease, they should avoid eating raw or insufficiently cooked beef and take medicine to treat tapeworm infections every six months.

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Duong Lieu - Kim Thoa / Tuoi Tre News

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