myChart login

Manage Your Health

Share/Save/Bookmark
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+)

Manage Your Health

Back to Health Library   Print This Page Print    Email to a Friend Email

Diphyllobothriasis

Definition

Diphyllobothriasis is an infection from a fish tapeworm.

Alternative Names

Fish tapeworm infection

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The fish tapeworm (Diphyllobothrium latum), is the largest parasite that infects humans. Humans become infected when they eat raw or undercooked freshwater fish that contain tapeworm cysts.

The infection is seen in many areas where humans eat uncooked or undercooked fish from rivers or lakes. Diphyllobothriasis is seen in Eastern Europe, North and South America, African countries in which freshwater fish are eaten, and in some Asian countries.

After a person has eaten infected fish, the larva begin to grow in the intestine. They are fully grown in 3 - 6 weeks. The adult worm, which is segmented, may reach a length of 30 feet. Eggs are formed in each segment of the worm and are passed in the stool. Occasionally, parts of the worm may also be passed in the stool.

Fish tapeworm infection may lead to vitamin B12 deficiency and megaloblastic anemia.

Symptoms

Most people who are infected have no symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal discomfort or pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

Signs and tests

People who are infected sometimes pass segments of worm in their stools. These segments can be seen in the stool.

Tests may include:

Treatment

You will receive medicines to fight the parasites. Medicines are taken by mouth, usually in a single dose.

The drug of choice for tapeworm infections is niclosamide. Praziquantel and albendazole can also be used. You may need vitamin B12 injections or supplements to treat megaloblastic anemia that can occur with this infection.

Expectations (prognosis)

Fish tapeworms can be removed with a single treatment dose. There are no lasting effects.

Complications

  • Megaloblastic anemia
  • Intestinal blockage

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have noticed a worm or segments of a worm in your stool
  • Any family members have symptoms of pernicious anemia

Prevention

Avoiding raw freshwater fish and cooking fish enough (to more than 140 degrees F for 5 minutes) will prevent infection with the fish tapeworm. Freezing fish to -4 degrees F for 24 hours also kills fish tapeworm eggs.

References

King CH. Cestode infections. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 375.


Review Date: 8/28/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com
 
© WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Raleigh, NC  |  919.350.8000  |