Submitted to: Microbes and Infection
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 6, 2002
Publication Date: June 20, 2002
Citation: Hoberg, E.P. 2002. Taenia tapeworms: their biology, evolution and socioeconomic significance. Microbes and Infection.
Interpretive Summary: The impact or socioeconomic significance of the 3 species of Taenia in humans, T. solium, T. saginata and T. asiatica varies according to patterns of distribution, biology and other specific characteristics of the host-parasite interface. Taenia solium remains the most significant because of its propensity to cause cysticercosis and neurocysticercosis in humans. The association between humans and taeniid tapeworms is archaic having resulted from ecological linkages established in Africa among our ancestors, carnivores, and their bovid prey. Thus, the basis for contemporary human taeniasis has deep historical roots, and is not the result of relatively recent domestication of our major food animals including cattle and swine and acquisition of tapeworms circulating in a synanthropic assemblage. Domestication of ungulates and expansion of human agriculture throughout the world, however, served to secondarily create the conditions for a broad cosmopolitan distribution for T. saginata and T. solium. Human taeniasis and cysticercosis remain significant challenges for public health and food safety, and a continuing threat to animal production on a global basis. Infections in humans and our food-animals cause in excess of $3-4 billion US in annual losses that are sustained in measures for control, medical intervention, and through lost productivity. Although the problem is global in scale, the majority of such costs are incurred in the developing world where their effects are particularly exacerbated by poverty and where economic impacts act to dampen socioeconomic development. Ultimately effective control of taeniasis and cysticercosis relies on epidemiological data and accurate identification of both adult and larval stages. There continues to be insufficient knowledge of the prevalence of infections for human taeniasis in both developing and industrialized countries and regions. This lack of knowledge has tended to mask the recognition of the depth and scope of economic and impacts associated with the emergence and re-emergence of human taeniasis and cysticercosis throughout the world.
A biological context for understanding human pathogens and parasites emanates from evolutionary studies among tapeworms of the genus Taenia. Human taeniasis and cysticercosis represent archaic associations and remain significant challenges for socioeconomic development, public health and food safety, and a continuing threat to animal production on global basis.