I believe Mrs. Baker, my 7th grade life science teacher, introduced me to tapeworms. If my memory serves me correctly, she said some “diet pills” had tapeworms. Ewww, what a way to lose weight! As a guest on HLN today, we discuss tapeworms because a beauty pageant mom secretly gave her daughter “diet pills” that infected her with tapeworms.
Tapeworms (Cestodes) are flat parasitic worms that live in human GI tract (the gut). Taeniasis, Diphyllobothriasis, Hymenolepiasis, and Diplyidiasis are the main tapeworm diseases. The adult tapeworm has a head, neck and segmented body. The head (scolex) has suckers, hooks, or groves to attach itself to the human intestine, usually the small bowels. Each segment (proglottid) of the tapeworm body has its own set of reproductive organs (so they are hermaphrodites).
Taeniasis: T. saginata (beef tapeworm), T. solium (pork tapeworm) and T. asiatica. Beef tapeworm usually less than 5m long and pork tapeworm 2 to 7m long. Most infected humans do not have symptoms but notice tapeworm segments in their stools. Some sense movement of the proglottids through the anus. If the person has symptoms, they can be nausea, loss of appetite, stomach pains, headache, dizziness, anxiety, and rash. The proglottids can obstruct the appendix, common bile duct (like a gallstone does) or pancreatic duct (to cause pancreatitis).
Diphyllobothriasis (fish tapeworm) is the largest human tapeworm caused by D. latum. They are found in fresh water fish. Most infected people do not have symptoms. Symptoms can include diarrhea, dizziness, and allergy symptoms. Because tapeworms steal nutrition from the human, this particular tapeworm can cause vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause memory problems, numbness of hands and feet, fatigue, anemia. Since Diphyllobothrium can be 10 to 12m long, some of them can tangle up to obstruct the GI system.
(c) Dr. John Hong