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Diphyllobothrium/Diphyllobothriasis

Diphyllobothriasis is an intestinal parasitic infection caused by the cestode Diphyllobothrium (also known as “fish tapeworm” or “broad tapeworm"). Diphyllobothriasis is acquired by ingestion of late larvae Larvae Wormlike or grublike stage, following the egg in the life cycle of insects, worms, and other metamorphosing animals. Ascaris/Ascariasis in undercooked or raw fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing. The clinical presentation of diphyllobothriasis varies from asymptomatic, nonspecific symptoms to intestinal obstruction Intestinal obstruction Any impairment, arrest, or reversal of the normal flow of intestinal contents toward the anal canal. Ascaris/Ascariasis, and/or vitamin B12 deficiency. Identification Identification Defense Mechanisms of eggs or proglottids Proglottids Taenia/Taeniasis in the stool can provide the diagnosis. Management includes anthelmintic therapy Anthelmintic therapy Agents that kill parasitic worms. They are used therapeutically in the treatment of helminthiasis in man and animal. Toxocariasis and, if needed, vitamin B12 supplementation.

Last updated: Sep 19, 2022

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

General Characteristics and Epidemiology

General features of Diphyllobothrium

Diphyllobothriasis is caused by a parasitic infection from the cestode (tapeworm) Diphyllobothrium

  • The largest human parasite (length up to 10 meters)
  • Adult morphology:
  • Eggs:
    • Ellipsoidal or oval
    • Operculum (lid-like structure) at 1 end
    • Mature in water within 3 weeks
  • Feeds through absorption Absorption Absorption involves the uptake of nutrient molecules and their transfer from the lumen of the GI tract across the enterocytes and into the interstitial space, where they can be taken up in the venous or lymphatic circulation. Digestion and Absorption

Clinically relevant species

  • D. latum (most common)
  • D. nihonkaiense
  • D. dendriticum
  • D. pacificus

Epidemiology

  • Approximately 20 million people are infected worldwide.
  • Traditionally found in areas where raw fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing consumption is common:
    • Northern Europe
    • North America
    • Japan
    • South America (rare)
  • No reported age or sexual predilection
  • No racial predilection

Pathogenesis

Hosts

Definitive hosts:

  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Birds

Intermediate hosts:

  • Freshwater fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing (most common) 
  • Marine fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing
  • Crustaceans

Transmission

Diphyllobothriasis is transmitted through the consumption of raw or undercooked fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing.

Life cycle Cycle The type of signal that ends the inspiratory phase delivered by the ventilator Invasive Mechanical Ventilation

  • Immature eggs are passed in the feces of a definitive host.
  • Eggs mature → oncospheres Oncospheres Taenia/Taeniasis → develop into coracidia → ingested by crustaceans (1st intermediate host)
  • Develop into procercoid larvae Larvae Wormlike or grublike stage, following the egg in the life cycle of insects, worms, and other metamorphosing animals. Ascaris/Ascariasis
  • Crustacean ingested by fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing (2nd intermediate host) → procercoid larvae Larvae Wormlike or grublike stage, following the egg in the life cycle of insects, worms, and other metamorphosing animals. Ascaris/Ascariasis develop into plerocercoid larvae Larvae Wormlike or grublike stage, following the egg in the life cycle of insects, worms, and other metamorphosing animals. Ascaris/Ascariasis (infectious stage) 
  • 2nd intermediate host can be eaten by larger predators → plerocercoid larvae Larvae Wormlike or grublike stage, following the egg in the life cycle of insects, worms, and other metamorphosing animals. Ascaris/Ascariasis migrate to musculature
  • Humans (definitive host) consume infected raw or undercooked fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing → develop into adult worms in the small intestine Small intestine The small intestine is the longest part of the GI tract, extending from the pyloric orifice of the stomach to the ileocecal junction. The small intestine is the major organ responsible for chemical digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is divided into 3 segments: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. Small Intestine: Anatomy → produce eggs
  • Immature eggs are passed in the feces → cycle Cycle The type of signal that ends the inspiratory phase delivered by the ventilator Invasive Mechanical Ventilation continues
Diphyllobothriasis

The life cycle Cycle The type of signal that ends the inspiratory phase delivered by the ventilator Invasive Mechanical Ventilation of species of Diphyllobothrium, the causal agents of the disease diphyllobothriasis

Image by Lecturio.

Clinical Presentation

General signs and symptoms

  • Most patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship are asymptomatic.
  • Passage of proglottids Proglottids Taenia/Taeniasis in the stool can occur.
  • Nonspecific symptoms:
    • Fatigue Fatigue The state of weariness following a period of exertion, mental or physical, characterized by a decreased capacity for work and reduced efficiency to respond to stimuli. Fibromyalgia
    • Abdominal pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways
    • Diarrhea Diarrhea Diarrhea is defined as ≥ 3 watery or loose stools in a 24-hour period. There are a multitude of etiologies, which can be classified based on the underlying mechanism of disease. The duration of symptoms (acute or chronic) and characteristics of the stools (e.g., watery, bloody, steatorrheic, mucoid) can help guide further diagnostic evaluation. Diarrhea
    • Dizziness Dizziness An imprecise term which may refer to a sense of spatial disorientation, motion of the environment, or lightheadedness. Lateral Medullary Syndrome (Wallenberg Syndrome)
    • Weight loss Weight loss Decrease in existing body weight. Bariatric Surgery

Complications

The following may be caused by heavy infections Infections Invasion of the host organism by microorganisms or their toxins or by parasites that can cause pathological conditions or diseases. Chronic Granulomatous Disease or aberrant migration of the tapeworms:

  • Vitamin B12 deficiency → D. latum has a high affinity for vitamin B12
    • Anemia Anemia Anemia is a condition in which individuals have low Hb levels, which can arise from various causes. Anemia is accompanied by a reduced number of RBCs and may manifest with fatigue, shortness of breath, pallor, and weakness. Subtypes are classified by the size of RBCs, chronicity, and etiology. Anemia: Overview and Types 
    • Paresthesias Paresthesias Subjective cutaneous sensations (e.g., cold, warmth, tingling, pressure, etc.) that are experienced spontaneously in the absence of stimulation. Posterior Cord Syndrome
    • Weakness
    • Hyporeflexia Hyporeflexia Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
    • Ataxia Ataxia Impairment of the ability to perform smoothly coordinated voluntary movements. This condition may affect the limbs, trunk, eyes, pharynx, larynx, and other structures. Ataxia may result from impaired sensory or motor function. Sensory ataxia may result from posterior column injury or peripheral nerve diseases. Motor ataxia may be associated with cerebellar diseases; cerebral cortex diseases; thalamic diseases; basal ganglia diseases; injury to the red nucleus; and other conditions. Ataxia-telangiectasia
    • Encephalopathy Encephalopathy Hyper-IgM Syndrome
  • Bowel obstruction Bowel obstruction Any impairment, arrest, or reversal of the normal flow of intestinal contents toward the anal canal. Ascaris/Ascariasis → occurs if worms become entangled
  • Biliary disease → migration of proglottids Proglottids Taenia/Taeniasis 
    • Cholecystitis Cholecystitis Cholecystitis is the inflammation of the gallbladder (GB) usually caused by the obstruction of the cystic duct (acute cholecystitis). Mechanical irritation by gallstones can also produce chronic GB inflammation. Cholecystitis is one of the most common complications of cholelithiasis but inflammation without gallstones can occur in a minority of patients. Cholecystitis 
    • Cholangitis

Diagnosis and Management

Diagnosis

  • Microscopic examination of the stool can reveal operculated eggs or proglottids Proglottids Taenia/Taeniasis.
  • Laboratory testing is largely nonspecific, but may reveal: 
    • Eosinophilia Eosinophilia Abnormal increase of eosinophils in the blood, tissues or organs. Autosomal Dominant Hyperimmunoglobulin E Syndrome
    • Megaloblastic anemia Megaloblastic anemia Megaloblastic anemia is a subset of macrocytic anemias that arises because of impaired nucleic acid synthesis in erythroid precursors. This impairment leads to ineffective RBC production and intramedullary hemolysis that is characterized by large cells with arrested nuclear maturation. The most common causes are vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies. Megaloblastic Anemia
    • ↓ Vitamin B12 

Management

Prevention

  • Cook fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing properly.
  • If eating sashimi or sushi, freeze fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing to kill the tapeworm larvae Larvae Wormlike or grublike stage, following the egg in the life cycle of insects, worms, and other metamorphosing animals. Ascaris/Ascariasis.
  • Water sanitation Sanitation The development and establishment of environmental conditions favorable to the health of the public. Hepatitis E Virus measures

Comparison of Tapeworm Species

Table: Characteristics and diseases of different tapeworm species
Organism Diphyllobothrium latum Taenia Taenia Taenia belong to the Cestoda class of helminths. Humans are infected with these tapeworms by eating undercooked beef (T. saginata) or pork (T. solium and T. asiatica). Taeniasis is often asymptomatic, but the ingestion of larvae can cause abdominal discomfort, nausea, and constipation or diarrhea. Taenia/Taeniasis saginata Echinococcus Echinococcus Echinococcosis is a parasitic disease caused by Echinococcus tapeworms. Infection most often occurs from the ingestion of Echinococcus eggs in food or water contaminated with dog feces. Signs and symptoms are caused by hydatid cyst development in visceral organs and depend on the species. Echinococcus/Echinococcosis granulosus
Characteristics
  • 2–7 mm MM Multiple myeloma (MM) is a malignant condition of plasma cells (activated B lymphocytes) primarily seen in the elderly. Monoclonal proliferation of plasma cells results in cytokine-driven osteoclastic activity and excessive secretion of IgG antibodies. Multiple Myeloma long
  • Hooks present
  • 3–6 proglottids Proglottids Taenia/Taeniasis
Transmission Eating raw, infected fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing Eating raw, infected beef Fecal to oral (ingestion of contaminated food or water)
Disease Diphyllobothriasis Taeniasis Taeniasis Taenia belong to the Cestoda class of helminths. Humans are infected with these tapeworms by eating undercooked beef (T. saginata) or pork (T. solium and T. asiatica). Taeniasis is often asymptomatic, but the ingestion of larvae can cause abdominal discomfort, nausea, and constipation or diarrhea. Taenia/Taeniasis Cystic Cystic Fibrocystic Change echinococcosis Echinococcosis Echinococcosis is a parasitic disease caused by Echinococcus tapeworms. Infection most often occurs from the ingestion of Echinococcus eggs in food or water contaminated with dog feces. Signs and symptoms are caused by hydatid cyst development in visceral organs and depend on the species. Echinococcus/Echinococcosis
Clinical
  • Usually asymptomatic
  • Mild GI symptoms
Depends on location and size of hydatid cysts Cysts Any fluid-filled closed cavity or sac that is lined by an epithelium. Cysts can be of normal, abnormal, non-neoplastic, or neoplastic tissues. Fibrocystic Change
Diagnosis Eggs or proglottids Proglottids Taenia/Taeniasis in stool Eggs or proglottids Proglottids Taenia/Taeniasis in stool
Management
Prevention
  • Freeze fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing.
  • Thoroughly cook fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing.
  • Water sanitation Sanitation The development and establishment of environmental conditions favorable to the health of the public. Hepatitis E Virus measures
Cook beef thoroughly.
  • Personal hygiene
  • Avoid contact with stray dogs.
  • Avoid potentially contaminated food.
  • Improve water sanitation Sanitation The development and establishment of environmental conditions favorable to the health of the public. Hepatitis E Virus.

Differential Diagnosis

  • Ascariasis Ascariasis Ascariasis is most often caused by A. lumbricoides. If symptomatic, characteristics typically follow 2 phases, which correlate with the migration of the parasite through the body. The early phase may include cough, dyspnea, and wheezing. The late phase typically includes abdominal discomfort, bloating, nausea, and intermittent diarrhea. Ascaris/Ascariasis: an infection caused by the parasitic roundworm Ascaris Ascaris Ascaris is a genus of parasitic nematodes. The infection, ascariasis, is most often caused by A. lumbricoides. Transmission occurs primarily via ingestion of water or food contaminated with Ascaris eggs. Most patients with ascariasis are asymptomatic. Ascaris/Ascariasis lumbricoides. Transmission occurs from the ingestion of water or food contaminated with Ascaris Ascaris Ascaris is a genus of parasitic nematodes. The infection, ascariasis, is most often caused by A. lumbricoides. Transmission occurs primarily via ingestion of water or food contaminated with Ascaris eggs. Most patients with ascariasis are asymptomatic. Ascaris/Ascariasis eggs. Patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship may be asymptomatic or experience cough and hemoptysis Hemoptysis Hemoptysis is defined as the expectoration of blood originating in the lower respiratory tract. Hemoptysis is a consequence of another disease process and can be classified as either life threatening or non-life threatening. Hemoptysis can result in significant morbidity and mortality due to both drowning (reduced gas exchange as the lungs fill with blood) and hemorrhagic shock. Hemoptysis. A large worm burden can cause intestinal obstruction Intestinal obstruction Any impairment, arrest, or reversal of the normal flow of intestinal contents toward the anal canal. Ascaris/Ascariasis and impair growth in children. Examination of the stool may show the presence of worms or eggs.  Management is with anthelmintic therapy Anthelmintic therapy Agents that kill parasitic worms. They are used therapeutically in the treatment of helminthiasis in man and animal. Toxocariasis.
  • Pernicious anemia Anemia Anemia is a condition in which individuals have low Hb levels, which can arise from various causes. Anemia is accompanied by a reduced number of RBCs and may manifest with fatigue, shortness of breath, pallor, and weakness. Subtypes are classified by the size of RBCs, chronicity, and etiology. Anemia: Overview and Types: causes vitamin B12 deficiency and megaloblastic anemia Megaloblastic anemia Megaloblastic anemia is a subset of macrocytic anemias that arises because of impaired nucleic acid synthesis in erythroid precursors. This impairment leads to ineffective RBC production and intramedullary hemolysis that is characterized by large cells with arrested nuclear maturation. The most common causes are vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies. Megaloblastic Anemia due to a deficiency of intrinsic factor Intrinsic factor A glycoprotein secreted by the cells of the gastric glands that is required for the absorption of vitamin B 12 (cyanocobalamin). Deficiency of intrinsic factor leads to vitamin B12 deficiency and anemia, pernicious. Gastritis, which is required for vitamin B12 absorption Absorption Absorption involves the uptake of nutrient molecules and their transfer from the lumen of the GI tract across the enterocytes and into the interstitial space, where they can be taken up in the venous or lymphatic circulation. Digestion and Absorption. Patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship may have fatigue Fatigue The state of weariness following a period of exertion, mental or physical, characterized by a decreased capacity for work and reduced efficiency to respond to stimuli. Fibromyalgia, cognitive decline, neuropathy Neuropathy Leprosy, ataxia Ataxia Impairment of the ability to perform smoothly coordinated voluntary movements. This condition may affect the limbs, trunk, eyes, pharynx, larynx, and other structures. Ataxia may result from impaired sensory or motor function. Sensory ataxia may result from posterior column injury or peripheral nerve diseases. Motor ataxia may be associated with cerebellar diseases; cerebral cortex diseases; thalamic diseases; basal ganglia diseases; injury to the red nucleus; and other conditions. Ataxia-telangiectasia, and glossitis. Low vitamin B12 levels, anti-intrinsic factor antibodies Antibodies Immunoglobulins (Igs), also known as antibodies, are glycoprotein molecules produced by plasma cells that act in immune responses by recognizing and binding particular antigens. The various Ig classes are IgG (the most abundant), IgM, IgE, IgD, and IgA, which differ in their biologic features, structure, target specificity, and distribution. Immunoglobulins: Types and Functions, and the Schilling test can be used for diagnosis. Management includes vitamin B12 replacement.
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth Bacterial overgrowth Lactose Intolerance: Aerobic and anaerobic microbes normally present in the colon Colon The large intestines constitute the last portion of the digestive system. The large intestine consists of the cecum, appendix, colon (with ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid segments), rectum, and anal canal. The primary function of the colon is to remove water and compact the stool prior to expulsion from the body via the rectum and anal canal. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy grow excessively in the small intestine Small intestine The small intestine is the longest part of the GI tract, extending from the pyloric orifice of the stomach to the ileocecal junction. The small intestine is the major organ responsible for chemical digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is divided into 3 segments: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. Small Intestine: Anatomy. Approximately 90% of cases are due to motility Motility The motor activity of the gastrointestinal tract. Gastrointestinal Motility disorders and chronic pancreatitis Pancreatitis Inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis is classified as acute unless there are computed tomographic or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatographic findings of chronic pancreatitis. The two most common forms of acute pancreatitis are alcoholic pancreatitis and gallstone pancreatitis. Acute Pancreatitis. Presentation includes bloating Bloating Constipation, flatulence, watery diarrhea Diarrhea Diarrhea is defined as ≥ 3 watery or loose stools in a 24-hour period. There are a multitude of etiologies, which can be classified based on the underlying mechanism of disease. The duration of symptoms (acute or chronic) and characteristics of the stools (e.g., watery, bloody, steatorrheic, mucoid) can help guide further diagnostic evaluation. Diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort; vitamin B12 deficiency can occur. The diagnosis can be made with breath testing. The mainstay of treatment is antibiotics and the correction of nutritional deficiencies.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): characterized by chronic inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body’s defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation of the GI tract due to a cell-mediated immune response to GI mucosa. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis Colitis Inflammation of the colon section of the large intestine, usually with symptoms such as diarrhea (often with blood and mucus), abdominal pain, and fever. Pseudomembranous Colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases. Symptoms include diarrhea Diarrhea Diarrhea is defined as ≥ 3 watery or loose stools in a 24-hour period. There are a multitude of etiologies, which can be classified based on the underlying mechanism of disease. The duration of symptoms (acute or chronic) and characteristics of the stools (e.g., watery, bloody, steatorrheic, mucoid) can help guide further diagnostic evaluation. Diarrhea, abdominal pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways, weight loss Weight loss Decrease in existing body weight. Bariatric Surgery, and extraintestinal manifestations. Diagnosis includes imaging, endoscopy Endoscopy Procedures of applying endoscopes for disease diagnosis and treatment. Endoscopy involves passing an optical instrument through a small incision in the skin i.e., percutaneous; or through a natural orifice and along natural body pathways such as the digestive tract; and/or through an incision in the wall of a tubular structure or organ, i.e. Transluminal, to examine or perform surgery on the interior parts of the body. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), and biopsy Biopsy Removal and pathologic examination of specimens from the living body. Ewing Sarcoma. Management involves steroids Steroids A group of polycyclic compounds closely related biochemically to terpenes. They include cholesterol, numerous hormones, precursors of certain vitamins, bile acids, alcohols (sterols), and certain natural drugs and poisons. Steroids have a common nucleus, a fused, reduced 17-carbon atom ring system, cyclopentanoperhydrophenanthrene. Most steroids also have two methyl groups and an aliphatic side-chain attached to the nucleus. Benign Liver Tumors, aminosalicylates, immunomodulators, and biologic agents Biologic Agents Immunosuppressants.

References

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