Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Some people with tapeworm infections never need treatment, for the tapeworm exits the body on its own. Others don't realize they have it because they have no symptoms. However, if you're diagnosed with intestinal tapeworm infection, medication will likely be prescribed to get rid of it.

Treatments for intestinal infections

The most common treatment for tapeworm infection involves oral medications that are toxic to the adult tapeworm, including:

  • Praziquantel (Biltricide)
  • Albendazole (Albenza)
  • Nitazoxanide (Alinia)

Which medication your doctor prescribes depends on the species of tapeworm involved and the site of the infection. These drugs target the adult tapeworm, not the eggs, so it's important to avoid reinfecting yourself. Always wash your hands after using the toilet and before eating.

To be certain that your tapeworm infection has cleared, your doctor will probably have your stool samples checked at certain intervals after you've finished taking your medication. Successful treatment — meaning that your stool is free of tapeworm eggs, larvae or proglottids — is most likely if you receive appropriate treatment for the type of tapeworm causing your infection.

Treatments for invasive infections

Treating an invasive infection depends on the location and effects of the infection.

  • Anthelmintic drugs. Albendazole (Albenza) can shrink some tapeworm cysts. Your doctor may monitor the cysts periodically using imaging studies such as ultrasound or X-ray to be sure the drug is effective.
  • Anti-inflammatory therapy. Dying tapeworm cysts can cause swelling or inflammation in tissues or organs, so your doctor may recommend prescription corticosteroid medication, such as prednisone or dexamethasone, to reduce inflammation.
  • Anti-epileptic therapy. If the disease is causing seizures, anti-epileptic medications can stop them.
  • Shunt placement. One type of invasive infection can cause too much fluid on the brain, called hydrocephalus. Your doctor may recommend placing a permanent shunt, or tube, in your head to drain the fluid.
  • Surgery. Whether cysts can be removed surgically depends on their location and symptoms. Cysts that develop in the liver, lungs and eyes are typically removed, since they can eventually threaten organ function. Your doctor might recommend a drainage tube as an alternative to surgery. The tube allows aggressive rinsing (irrigation) of the area with anti-parasitic solutions.
Dec. 20, 2011

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