Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tapeworm Research (sources not cited shitbag! except where cited)

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  • Tapeworm is any of a group of tapelike flatworms that live as parasites. Adult tapeworms live in the intestines of human beings or other animals. They have a headlike organ called a scolex and a series of blocklike segments in a flat body. A tapeworm has no mouth or intestine. It absorbs food through its body wall. Some tapeworms measure less than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long and have only a few segments. Others grow more than 30 feet (9 meters) long and have thousands of segments.

    A tapeworm's scolex has suckers or hooks or both. The worm uses the scolex to attach itself to the intestine of the host--that is, the animal in which the worm lives. The rest of the worm's body grows from a necklike region behind the scolex. Segments develop as the worm grows. Each segment contains male and female reproductive organs and produces many eggs. Segments filled with eggs may drop off the end of the body. The segments then may pass out of the host with body wastes and release the eggs outside the host.

    Almost all tapeworms have one or more larval (immature) stages and develop in two or three hosts. A newly hatched tapeworm is called an oncosphere. It is round and has small hooks. An oncosphere develops in a host that eats it or the egg it hatches from. The oncosphere burrows through the intestine of this host to muscles or other organs. If another animal eats this host, the oncosphere may develop into another larval stage or into an adult tapeworm. A person may be infected by a tapeworm by eating improperly cooked fish, pork, or beef that contains tapeworm larvae.

    Most adult tapeworms produce no bad effects in people. Sometimes they cause loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, nausea, weakness, or anemia. Tapeworm larvae are much more dangerous to people. A person who accidentally eats eggs of the pork tapeworm may have young worms develop in almost every organ of the body, including the eyes, brain, and heart.

    Scientific classification. Tapeworms belong to the class Cestoda of the phylum Platyhelminthes.

    See also FLATWORM.

    Contributor: Seth Tyler, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Maine, Orono.

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