What does a tapeworm look like in faeces? (+1 observations)

In this article, we will discuss the appearance of tapeworms in faeces. We will also discuss other parasites that may be confused with tapeworms.

What does a tapeworm look like in faeces?

Pieces of tapeworm in the faeces look rectangular and flat. They are often pale yellow or white. You may find dead tapeworms, segments or tapeworm eggs in the faeces. Sometimes segments may join together to form a long chain.

Most of the tapeworms are observed as segments (filled with fertile eggs, known as proglottids) either stuck around the anus or crawling out of the fresh stool. The fresh proglottids resemble white balls of jelly. The dried proglottids are hard, yellowish in colour, and resemble a rice grain.

Tapeworms are a type of flatworm that lives in the digestive tract. They are often acquired from raw or undercooked food, surfaces contaminated with tapeworm eggs, handshake with an infected person, or an unhygienic environment.

How does tapeworm appear in the faeces?

A tapeworm is a parasite that lives and feeds in the human intestine. Tapeworms can infect both humans and animals. A tapeworm has three distinct parts:

  • Head: It is also known as scolex. The head attaches to the intestinal wall for further segmentation and to absorb nutrients from the intestine.
  • Nonsegmented section: A new segment is generated from the nonsegmented section and pushes the old segments down.

Each segment has two sets of male and female reproductive organs, making tapeworms hermaphroditic. They produce fertile eggs and push them into the old segments to form a segmented lower section.

  • Segmented lower section: When the old segments are filled with fertile eggs, they detach from the tapeworm and appear in the faeces as rectangular and flat segments.

Most of the time, the segmented lower section exits the body on its own or spreads to other tissues. They may also appear in faeces after getting an antiparasitic drug. However, the antiparasitic drug only kills the tapeworm egg and not the live larvae (1). 

What are the common symptoms of tapeworm infection?

Tapeworm infection is often asymptomatic in the early stages of infection. However, some patients may experience these common symptoms:

  • Diarrhoea,
  • Increased appetite, 
  • Stomach pain,
  • Vomiting,
  • Weakness, and
  • Weight loss due to malabsorption of nutrients.

In case of extreme infection, especially after eating pork, the patient may develop fluid-filled cysts and inflammation. The patient may also experience vision blurness, lumps on the skin, or seizures. Fish tapeworms are known to cause anaemia.

Can tapeworms be mistaken for other parasites?

Many parasites may be confused with a tapeworm, especially in the faeces. These parasites might include roundworms and pinworms. Depending upon the size and shape, yeast and fungal infection may also be confused with tapeworms. 

In the case of pinworms, the worms present in the faeces appear thin (thread-like), and white. For roundworms, live worms or segmented portions may appear in the faeces. They are shorter than the tapeworm and have round bodies.

Similarly, pollen grains and plant cells are common in the faeces. Due to their circular features, they may be confused with tapeworm eggs. Similarly, plant hairs present in the faeces are often mistaken for the larvae of tapeworms.

How to prevent and manage tapeworm infection?

As the saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’. Tapeworm infection can be easily avoided by adopting good hygiene and eating properly cooked food.


It is important to wash your hands after defecating. Keep your nails short as eggs may stick in the nails and transfer to other places. Do not eat raw or undercooked meat, pork, and fish. Undercooked meat is the biggest source of getting tapeworms.

Properly cook the meat until the juices run clear. The inner meat should not be pink. Similarly, cook the fish until it is solid in colour with no flakes. Freezing the meat for 24 hours may kill the tapeworm eggs.

Avoid using washrooms that have poor sanitation. Tapeworm eggs may transfer to other people through doorknobs, uncleaned toilet seats, washbasins, and other unhygienic environments.


Praziquantel is a broadspectrum vermicide that kills the tapeworm lurking in the intestine. They are effective in dislodging the tapeworm head from the intestine and shrinking the cysts containing active larvae (2). 

Fish tapeworms may also cause anaemia and vitamin B12 deficiencies. Therefore, doctors may prescribe vitamin B12 supplements. Folic acid supplements may reduce the egg-lying capacity of tapeworms. However, taking excess folic acid may cause side effects such as itching and stomach pain.

As a pharmacist, I often receive complaints of tapeworms lurking in the faeces of children. You should teach your kids the significance of handwashing and toilet hygiene. Always flush after defecating and wash your hands before touching other surfaces.

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Tanowitz HB, Weiss LM, Wittner M. Tapeworms. Current infectious disease reports. 2001 Feb;3(1):77-84. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11908-001-0062-z


Campbell S, Soman-Faulkner K. Antiparasitic drugs. https://europepmc.org/article/nbk/nbk544251