Treating a tapeworm infection 

If an adult tapeworm infection is identified, it can be treated with medication. In some cases there are no symptoms or the tapeworm leaves the body by itself.

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 which:

  • 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.

Tapeworm infection in the UK is so rare that these medications are not generally available. Your GP will prescribe it to you on a named-patient basis and your pharmacist may have to make special arrangements to get the medicine for you.

If you have passed a large section of tapeworm this doesn’t mean that the infection has cleared. If the worm neck and head are still attached in your small intestine it will grow again.

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

Hygiene while you are being treated

The medication only attacks the adult tapeworm and not its eggs, so good 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 will refer you to an Infectious Diseases Unit or Tropical Infection Unit for further assessment and treatment. This may include the use of another medication called albendazole.

If the infection is with the hydatid tapeworm, treatment is complicated and in some cases may need surgery.

Page last reviewed: 04/09/2014

Next review due: 04/05/2017