The dwarf tapeworm is distributed worldwide. Infections occur primarily in tropical and subtropical regions, but also in temperate climate zones. It is estimated to be infecting 75 million people worldwide, with children particularly at risk. The infestation with the dwarf tapeworm is infectious and can cause gastrointestinal problems.
What is a dwarf tapeworm?
The dwarf tapeworm belongs to the genus of tapeworms (cestodes). It only grows four to six centimeters long and one centimeter wide. Like all tapeworm species, the dwarf tapeworm settles parasitically in the intestine. For leopard syndrome definition and meaning, please visit howsmb.com.
It absorbs food osmotically through the skin. The head of the dwarf tapeworm is equipped with suction cups or hooks and is only used to attach itself to the intestinal wall.
The limbs of the dwarf tapeworm (proglottids) are less pronounced than those of its larger relatives. Since all stages of development from the egg to the worm can take place in one host, the dwarf tapeworm, in contrast to other tapeworm species, does not necessarily need an intermediate host.
The dwarf tapeworm is mainly spread through contaminated food or water. Due to a lack of hygiene, but also due to the fact that the dwarf tapeworm does not need an intermediate host, permanent self-infection is possible once fertilized eggs have been ingested.
Children are most frequently affected, and are usually infected with the dwarf tapeworm via a smear infection. Transmission via rodents or insects as intermediate hosts is less common.
Insects can ingest the fertilized egg by eating animal feces (e.g. rodents). The larva of the dwarf tapeworm renders the insect sterile so that its energy store is used solely for the development of the larva. Infected insects can pass the dwarf tapeworm on to pets, but also to humans.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Infestation with the dwarf tapeworm (Hymenolepis nana) often causes no pain to those affected. The parasite often remains undetected as long as it does not exceed a certain total number. After a massive spread, non-specific symptoms initially appear. This includes short-term illnesses such as abdominal pain, diarrhea or general malaise, all of which are examples of numerous other gastrointestinal problems.
In the case of an exceptionally severe infestation by the dwarf tapeworm, more distinctive symptoms can be observed in individual cases. These can best be described as an intestinal infection and inflammatory processes in the intestinal wall. Irregular intervals between noticeable symptoms and their sporadic occurrence without a suitable explanation are among the few typical characteristics of the dwarf tapeworm.
The immediate consequences of the parasite usually remain easily controllable. In the long term, people who are already weak observe changes in their bodies. The small worms constantly secrete toxic substances such as metabolites. These are suspected of being involved in the development of allergies. Patients already suffering from other underlying diseases such as an immune deficiency, the symptoms occur more frequently and with greater intensity.
So there is not only the danger of a new allergy, but the host is also threatened with a lack of vital nutrients. As a result of the growing needs of the parasites, the utilization efficiency of the human digestive tract decreases. In chronically ill individuals, therefore, the infestation manifests itself in the form of visible weight loss despite an appropriate diet plan.
Diagnosis & History
When infested with the dwarf tapeworm, there are often no symptoms. There may be slight gastrointestinal complaints ( nausea, stomach cramps, gas development, diarrhea ), but these are usually too minor to justify an exact diagnosis.
For explicit detection of the dwarf tapeworm, a stool sample must be examined under a microscope in a parasitology laboratory. A very pronounced infestation with the dwarf tapeworm can lead to tissue atrophy in the intestinal villi, which leads to intestinal inflammation.
In isolated cases, individual limbs (proglottids) can detach from the dwarf tapeworm and be visible to the naked eye on the stool. These contain infectious eggs and should never be touched. They can survive in air for up to ten days.
As a rule, compilations only occur in dwarf tapeworm if the disease is not treated. With early diagnosis and treatment, however, there is always a positive course of the disease without complications. Those affected suffer from this disease primarily from very severe abdominal pain and also from diarrhea.
The severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration and a further loss of important nutrients and vitamins. If these are not taken up again elsewhere, deficiency symptoms can also occur. In the further course, the dwarf tapeworm leads to an inflammation of the intestine, which can have serious consequences for those affected.
Nausea and severe stomach cramps occur, and flatulence often occurs. These are particularly unpleasant and can have a very negative effect on the quality of life of those affected. Dwarf tapeworm is usually treated with medication.
There are no particular complications, although the treatment can lead to severe abdominal pain and dizziness. In most cases, the disease is over after about seven days. However, the dwarf tapeworm can also recur, in which case a new treatment is necessary.
When should you go to the doctor?
If you experience repeated or persistent abdominal pain, diarrhea, or other abdominal abnormalities, you should see a doctor. If there are disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, a noise during digestion, diarrhea or vomiting, the affected person needs medical care. Inner weakness, exhaustion or a decrease in physical performance are further indications of an illness.
If the usual everyday obligations can no longer be carried out sufficiently, consultation with a doctor should be sought. If the complexion changes, allergic reactions develop or itching occurs, these changes can be interpreted as an alarm signal. If you lose weight, have stool movements or have any other abnormalities when going to the toilet, you should consult a doctor.
Of particular concern is a decrease in body weight with unchanged food intake. If there is no excessive physical activity, this indicates the presence of a health disorder. If symptoms of deficiency, behavioral problems, states of inner restlessness and irritability appear, the person concerned needs a medical examination. To alleviate the symptoms, a diagnosis must be made and a treatment plan drawn up.
People who have a weakened immune system or who have already been diagnosed with previous illnesses belong to the risk group. If your health continues to deteriorate, you should immediately inform your doctor of the changes to avoid complications.
Treatment & Therapy
Dwarf tapeworm infection is treated with a 7-day course. The drug is taken once a day after breakfast. It is important to chew the tablets very well before swallowing them.
Since the dwarf tapeworm is protected under a layer of mucus, it is advisable to support the therapy with acidic fruit juices so that the layer becomes more permeable and the medication can work better. Furthermore, for a successful therapy it is necessary to remove any existing blockages before the therapy.
After the treatment, the dwarf tapeworm is excreted in several parts in the stool. Elimination can be accelerated by taking laxative drinks such as Glauber’s salt solution. Slight abdominal pain, nausea, headache, dizziness, tiredness and hypersensitivity reactions can occur as side effects of the dwarf tapeworm therapy.
It also happens that the dwarf tapeworm disappears on its own with age. However, such spontaneous healing cannot be guaranteed. Pregnant women should refrain from therapy and, in the case of a very severe infestation, only carry it out after precise consultation with the doctor.
To prevent infection with the dwarf tapeworm, you should pay attention to strict hygiene. Consistency is especially important in tropical and subtropical areas: washing your hands regularly, especially after going to the toilet and before eating, checking the hygiene conditions when preparing food and not eating unwashed fruit and vegetables.
Use cutlery when eating. Don’t put your hands to your mouth. Excrement waste from animal cages should not be disposed of in the compost, but with household waste. If these measures are observed, the risk of infection with the dwarf tapeworm is low.
Follow-up care for a dwarf tapeworm usually includes a medical history and, if necessary, a physical exam. If the dwarf tapeworm has been passed in its entirety, no further physical examination is necessary. Depending on the patient’s state of health, it may be sufficient to prescribe a mild laxative.
If the dwarf tapeworm has been completely excreted, the patient is discharged. Further treatment measures are not necessary in this case. However, it is important to have your stool checked regularly. If residues of the parasites are noticed in the stool, a doctor should be consulted. If drugs such as praziquantel were administered as part of the treatment, side effects and interactions must also be clarified.
Finally, the doctor will give the patient advice on how to avoid re-infection with the dwarf tapeworm. First and foremost, this includes hygienic measures. In the case of repeated complaints, a detailed investigation into the cause is sometimes necessary.
Patients should contact the doctor so that the symptoms can be treated. Follow-up care usually only includes one or two check-ups, although the exact measures can vary from person to person. The family doctor, a urologist or an internist takes care of aftercare for a dwarf tapeworm.
You can do that yourself
In the event of an infestation with a dwarf tapeworm, there are also some self-help options that can be used to support drug treatment. This includes, among other things, the administration of a grapefruit seed extract. It can be taken with fruit juice and works against parasites in the intestine. The walls of the fungal cells are attacked by the active substance, which prevents them from absorbing food.
A garlic cure is also considered helpful. To use them, garlic cloves are chopped up and boiled in hot water for 20 minutes. A little honey is also added. For a period of 14 days, the patient takes a tablespoon of the garlic broth every day. Alternatively, you can crush the garlic cloves. They then steep in a cup of milk for 12 hours, drinking one cup a day for three weeks.
In order for the worm disease to heal faster, it is important to consistently observe a few hygiene rules. At the beginning of the therapy, the underwear, towels and bed linen should be cleaned in the washing machine at a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius. The carpets should also be vacuumed thoroughly and the railings and door handles should be wiped with a damp cloth. Ordinary cleaning agents are sufficient for this. Before eating and visiting the toilet, hands must be washed thoroughly with soap. This also applies to the children when they come home.