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Find information on medical topics, symptoms, drugs, procedures, news and more, written for the health care professional.

* This is the Professional Version. *

Sparganosis

By Richard D. Pearson, MD, University of Virginia School of Medicine

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Sparganosis is infection with larvae of Spirometra spp or Sparganum proliferum tapeworms.

Adult Spirometra spp and Sparganum proliferum tapeworms infect dogs, cats, and other carnivores. Eggs are passed into freshwater where they are ingested by copepods (eg, Cyclops). Fish, reptiles, and amphibians (including frogs) ingest them and serve as intermediate hosts.

Humans and other mammals become infected by

  • Accidental ingestion of copepods from water contaminated by cat or dog feces

  • Ingestion of inadequately cooked flesh from another intermediate host

  • Contact with poultices containing flesh from these sources

In humans, larvae typically migrate to subcutaneous tissue or muscle and form slowly growing masses. Other sites, including the CNS, may be involved but are much less common. Symptoms are caused by mass effect.

Diagnosis of sparganosis is typically made after surgical removal, although it may be suggested when imaging detects a mass.

Surgery is also the primary treatment and is typically done for symptomatic, space-occupying lesions. Generally, treatment with anthelmintics has not been effective.

* This is the Professional Version. *