Tapeworms are flat worms that live in the intestines of some animals like cow, dog, pig and even fish. These are actually parasites that derive nutrients from the body of the animals they reside in. They enter the body of animals when the latter feed on grasses or drink contaminated water. When humans eat undercooked or raw meat, it easily enters their body.
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It does not have a digestive system and so takes in nutrients that are partially digested by the host body. They live inside the body deriving nutrients from the body and laying numerous eggs. It may grow even up to 30 feet long and live up to 25years. It goes through three stages – egg, larva (growing immature worm) and finally the adult which is capable of laying eggs. Fully grown tapeworms have many segments on their body and reside inside the intestine.
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The head of the worm is called scolex below which is the neck. The scolex has important parts like suckers or hooks which keep them attached to the walls of the intestine and protecting them from getting pushed out of the body. Below the neck is its body called strobila. It has a lot of segments. The tapeworm is an interesting creature with both male and female reproductive systems in their body. Segments right below the neck have male reproductive organs and further below are the segments with female reproductive organs. Thus it is capable of producing millions of eggs. Each segment can individually get disintegrated from the body of the tapeworm. Although it leaves the body of the host along with the stool, it still can manage to crawl away and get eaten by any other animal or leave behind eggs that might get into the body of some other host animal.
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When these eggs get into the body of an animal, the cycle repeats. It sometimes results in the formation of cysts in any part of the body. The cysts may grow and affect the tissues around it causing unpleasant symptoms or even death in rare cases.
Tapeworm infection does not cause any symptom in the host. The only way to find out is to if they get to see segments of tapeworm in the stool. There is but one good thing about the tapeworms – it can easily be treated using medications.
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