MadSci Network: Microbiology

Re: Tape Worms

Area: Microbiology
Posted By: Mike Crawford, Graduate Student, Genetics
Date: Wed Jun 12 03:47:57 1996

Hello to you military folks in Germany! I spent the summer of 92 at Patch
Barracks in Stuttgart.  A little small, but not too bad.  OK enough about
me, let's talk worms.  I'll try to answer your questions as best I can;
I worked briefly with Ascaris worms at one point in my career.

(1)  Yes, some people in the past have unfortunately attempted to control 
their appetite by swallowing a tape worm "larva".  Although, I was unable to
find exactly which species of tapeworm the poor folks used (there are over
30 species that infect humans), I would guess that it's either Diphyllobothrium
latum (which you get from undercooked fish) or Taenia saginata (from undercooked
beef).  Both of these can grow to be as large as 10 meters inside of you and,
besides sharing your food, they usually do not cause clinical symptoms.
Some of the other tapeworm species can break out of your intestine and move
on to cause cysts in such lovely places as your brain and eyeball,
so choose your species wisely.  The reason that this went out of style, of 
course, is that a major cause of obesity in people is behavior.  Someone
with an eating disorder felt hungrier with a tapeworm and wound up eating 
much more than if he/she never had the worm.  Plus, occasionally the worm
would decide to leave the body (not enough food) and create an uncomfortable,
embarrasing situation for its host.

(2) As I mentioned previously, there are over 30 species of tapeworms that
infect humans, each has its own favorite region to infect people.
The major ones are:
Fish Tapeworm: Finland, Sweden, Canada, Alaska (wherever freshwater fish
are commonly eaten)
Beef Tapeworm:  Most of Asia, some in Latin America, Europe
Pork Tapeworm:  India, Africa, Mexico, Latin America
A common one in the US is the "dwarf tapeworm" Hymenolepis nana 
(3 to 4 cm long)
The one that likes to move around in your body and infect your brain, eyeball
(Echinococcus) is found in the Mediterranean area, Middle East, Australia,
New Zealand, Latin America, and especially Wiesbaden, Germany.

(3)  I'll let the net take over the last answer.  Most of the information
you requested on Schistosomiasis (or Bilharzia) can be found at the CDC
or through the World Health Organization.

Thanks for the question Tahira and the rest.  Let me know if you need 
any other info.

Michael Crawford


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