Written by Rachel Arieff
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Tapeworms are a variety of worm parasite that infests both humans and animals. In fact, they're often passed from one to the other through undercooked meat, or contact with either human or animal feces. Whereas other types of parasitic worms, such roundworms and hookworms, are relatively small and have a single, unsegmented body, the tapeworm is the largest intestinal parasite: a ribbonlike, segmented worm that can grow twenty to thirty feet in length, inhabiting the digestive tract and sometimes exiting through the mouth, anus, or into the bloodstream.

Different tapeworm species inhabit beef, pork, and fish, but all enter the human body as larvae, nearly always in undercooked meat. Once inside the body, the larvae travel down the digestive tract until they reach the intestine. There, they attach to the intestinal wall and nourish themselves by leaching nutrients from the host's partially digested food as it makes its way through the intestine. Unfortunately, the story doesn't stop there.

Dangers from Tapeworms

Depending on the type, tapeworms can also travel through the bloodstream to muscle tissue and organs such as the heart, brain, eye, or gallbladder. This can cause all kinds of problems; among them, tissue damage, seizures, vision problems, and central nervous system damage. Unfortunately, however, tapeworm infections themselves are often symptomless. Horror stories abound about people walking around for years, even decades, with tapeworm infections, gradually falling victim to malnutrition, debilitating neurological disorders, blindness, or brain damage.

The individual facts on tapeworms are equally chilling. A certain fish tapeworm, Diphyllobothrium latum, can grow to a length of 15 meters. Beef tapeworm segments can break off and form more worms. They can also pass out of the body through the anus, full of eggs and ready to infect others. However, amid all these disgusting facts, one more remains: tapeworm infection is curable and, with regular and effective colon cleansing techniques, avoidable.

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