Feeds

How much damage does a tapeworm do to the human body?

Less than you'd think

High performance access to file storage

Also in this week's column:

How much damage does a tapeworm do to the human body?

Asked by George Gomez of Concord, California, USA

Tapeworms produce surprisingly few physical problems for the human body in infected individuals. But it is still to be avoided.

In The Odd Body 3 (2007), it is pointed out that the subject of tapeworms is an often-asked Odd Body Question even though tapeworm infestation is less of a problem in modern industrial societies as the quality of our food is higher. Thank the inventor of the refrigerator for much of this.

Tapeworms come into the body via contaminated food. Many organisms live on and in the human body. A tapeworm can easily survive and thrive indefinitely inside us. A tapeworm in a human can range in length from 1/250 of an inch (.0063 cm) to an incredible 50 feet (15.23 meters)!

Tapeworms have no digestive tract so they must eat food already digested by another animal. That is precisely what they do as a parasite inside our intestines. Tapeworms absorb nutrients directly across their skin (cuticle). They also reproduce inside us. There are many species of tapeworms, not all can infest humans.

Tapeworms are simple in design, but ruthless in action. They consist of two organs. The first organ (scolex) anchors the beastie to the wall of the intestine with suckers and hooks. The second organ (proglottid) is really a series of organs that grow out from the scolex with each having full reproductive capability. Proglottids form a chain of varying length. The last segment of the chain eventually breaks off and is passed out with feces.

Tapeworms resist being destroyed by the body's immune system or digestive juices. Tapeworms cause health problems around the world and can even kill since they rob us of nutrients, block our intestines, and take up space in organs that stop them from functioning normally. A tapeworm cyst can settle in the brain, eye, liver, and elsewhere.

Although little is known about the origins of tapeworms in humans, it is well known that some tapeworms live in both animals and humans. Some tapeworms have such a complex life that they are required to live first in an herbivore (such as a cow) and then in a carnivore (such as a human) where it only then can reproduce [Source: Arnold, J. (2001) Scientific sleuths track the origins of tapeworms in humans. ARS U.S. Department of Agriculture, 23 October, p. 1.]

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.