What are tapeworms?
Tapeworms are intestinal worms ranging in length from a few millimeters up to 9 meters.
Tapeworms live in the intestine of certain mammals, including humans. The parasitic tapeworms live in the small intestine of the primary host.
They hooks in their head (scolex) that attach to the wall of the intestine and an elongated and plane body formed by different rings (proglottids) that are expelled to the outside when defecating. Each ring produces new eggs for himself.
When a victim ingests the eggs, larvae hatch in the intestine. The hatched larvae encyst in some organ of the body of the new host is known as secondary hosts.
This encystation can be done in vital organs causing serious disturbances.
Type of tapeworms
The main types of tapeworms are:
– Tapeworm (Taenia solium) is a species of tapeworm coming from pigs meat which is widespread in Asian, Central and South American countries. It is a plane intestinal worm between two and five meters longs that uses man as the definitive host.
It is responsible for the infections known as taeniasis and cisticercosis. The first disease occurs when someone eats raw meat infected. Larvae encysted in this animal meat hatch in the human intestine and produce new tapeworms.
Cisticercosis occurs when eggs are ingested. In this case, there is no definitive development of the animal, but hatched larvae encyst in the organs of the new host.
It is scientifically known as Taenia solium. Solium means “alone“, because there is usually only one specimen in the body. In Spanish or French languages their common nouns of ” solitaria ” or “solitaire” (= lonely) allude respectively to this characteristic.
– Cow or beef tapeworms (Taenia saginata) It is the type of tapeworm living in the cow intestine. By eating meat, the tapeworm develops in the human intestine. This kind of tapeworms do no produce any cysts in people.
– The fish tapeworm (Diphyllobothrium latum) This type of parasite is common in people from countries that eat raw meat. This tapeworm lives in freshwater fishes and is responsible for a disease known as fish tapeworm infection or diphyllobothriasis.
– The dog tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus) Appears in dogs or other canids, such as wolves or jackals and some other animals such as buffaloes or porks. Humans become infected by eating raw meat and produce cysts in organs like the liver or lungs.
Symptoms of tapeworms
Tapeworm Infection usually causes no symptoms. Autoinfection with taeniasis and cisticercosis may produce cysts in the brain causing seizures.
Some symptoms more rarely occurs in some patients: stomach ache, diarrhea or, when the tapeworm is located in the jejunum, may produce vitamin B12 deficiency with the development of anemia.
Causes of tapeworms
The root causes that can cause tapeworms infection are:
– Ingestion of contaminated food: The larvae of these tapeworms are acquired by eating meat infected with cysts of these parasites. Humans can become infected by eating food or drinking water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or segments.
– Contact with infected people: The lack of hygiene of some people who have touched their anal area contaminated with feces or eggs can lead to infection of others.
Diagnosis, treatment of tapeworms.
The presence of tapeworms can be detected either directly by the existence of eggs or rings in stool. The definitive diagnosis is made with an analysis of potentially contaminated faeces
How to prevent tapeworm infection?
To prevent the spread of tapeworms your should observe the following precautions:
– Wash all fruits and vegetables that have to be eaten raw. (A good way to ensure sterilization is add a drop of bleach per liter of water and leave the fruit and vegetables to soak for a few minutes)
– Wash the clothes of people affected and do not share clothes as towels.
– Wash hands thoroughly before eating.
– Avoid scratching the anal area when feeling itching, something which is usually very common in young children. This would avoid both the possible erosion of the skin and the possibility of spreading the parasite to other people or to yourself.
More information about tapeworms, other intestinal worms.
19 June, 2020