What is Tapeworm?

The tapeworm’s hook-shaped mouth of appendages allows it to attach itself to the host’s intestines.

The tapeworm is a parasitic organism that lives in hosts such as pets, farm animals, and humans. Making themselves the class of Cestoda, worms are long, segmented worms of different species with a complicated reproductive cycle. A tapeworm infestation usually has minimal symptoms, but a person can develop serious health problems if left untreated.

A tapeworm has a head, called a scolex, with a mouth of hook-shaped appendages that allow it to attach to its host’s intestinal lining. Just behind the head, the neck develops the segments that make up the rest of the elongated worm. A mature, healthy tapeworm can reach 20 feet (6.1 m) in a large host, traveling down the small intestine. The end or tail segments break off and are passed with droppings.

The tapeworm is often caught in small lakes or rivers.

As an adult, the tapeworm absorbs nutrients from its primary host, which can be a dog, cat, cow, sheep, human, or other mammal. To reproduce, the tapeworm can fertilize its own eggs (in some species) and release them to be excreted in the host’s feces. In the secondary stage, an intermediate host ingests these eggs and they become embedded in muscles or organs. When the intermediate host, such as a cow, is eaten by another primary host, the eggs begin to develop into new tapeworms.

Sheep can host tapeworms.

The tapeworm is often contracted by swimming in a body of water, such as a lake or river, and accidentally swallowing a small amount of water. However, a person can also become infected by eating undercooked meat such as beef, pork, or fish, or by being bitten by a flea from an infected pet. Humans with tapeworm have subtle or no symptoms. This includes weight loss, hunger, indigestion, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or anemia. If the tapeworm has spread, using you as an intermediate host and eggs embedded in vital organs, your liver, lungs, heart and brain can be affected.

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Dogs are at risk of getting the tapeworm.

Your GP can diagnose a tapeworm infestation by examining a stool sample for segments or eggs of a worm that used it as a primary host. However, if the human is acting as a secondary host and cysts form on organs, the doctor may need to perform a CT scan or ultrasound. Treating a tapeworm infestation depends on medication, but the cysts need to be surgically removed.

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