Tapeworm infections - Treatment 

Treating a tapeworm infection 

Adult tapeworm infections are treated with medication. 

It is more complicated to treat infection with tapeworm larvae. This is because the larvae will have settled in parts of the body outside the intestines. By the time symptoms appear, the infection may have been present for many years.

Treating a tapeworm infection

Adult tapeworm infections are treated with anthelmintic medication. Anthelmintic medication:

  • kills parasitic worms
  • makes the worms pass out of your intestine in your stools (poo) 

The medication works by dissolving or attacking the tapeworm. Little of the medication is absorbed by your digestive system. Your GP will probably prescribe niclosamide or praziquantel, to be taken in a single dose.

Niclosamide and praziquantel are only available on a named-patient basis. This means that the medicine is not generally available on prescription, in this case because tapeworm infections in the UK are so rare. Your GP or pharmacist may have to make special arrangements to get the medicine for you.

If treatment does not get rid of the tapeworm's neck and head, the whole tapeworm can grow again. For the treatment to be effective, the neck and head will need to come out of your intestine in your stools.

Some doctors suggest that using a laxative may help the tapeworm to come out. Also, with the pork tapeworm, some doctors suggest taking a medicine to prevent you vomiting (an antiemetic). This is to prevent you re-infecting yourself by swallowing tapeworm larvae.

You will need to provide your GP with stool samples for several months to check that the treatment has worked.

Hygiene while you are being treated

The medication only attacks the adult tapeworm and not its eggs, so hygiene is important.

It is possible to re-infect yourself while you are being treated. For example, you could pass tapeworm eggs in your stools and then transfer them to your mouth with your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after using the toilet. Other members of your family or household should do the same.

Treating a tapeworm larvae infection

Your GP may recommend anthelmintic medication to treat infection with tapeworm larvae. They may prescribe albendazole, also only available on a named-patient basis (see above).

Your GP may continue to prescribe albendazole after the initial treatment to prevent cysts (tiny sacs of larvae) coming back.

In some cases, cysts containing tapeworm larvae may be removed by surgery. Your doctor may recommend injecting a cyst with medication such as formalin to kill the tapeworm larvae before the cyst is removed.

Sometimes, surgery to remove cysts may not be possible, for example if the cysts are close to major blood vessels or organs.

Page last reviewed: 22/05/2012

Next review due: 22/05/2014


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