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By Rebecca Hernandez

What’s a sure fire way of losing a few stone before bikini season? Why, get yourself a tapeworm, of course! It’s rumoured that women in the early 1900s deliberately swallowed tapeworms to lose weight.

The broad tapeworm would certainly help you shed the pounds, as it is the largest tapeworm which invades humans, growing up to 10 metres long. Not only that, but this monster can live in your small intestine for decades, growing and growing, without being detected - many people show no symptoms whatsoever.

See a tapeworm's lifecycle.

Tapeworms don't actually cause too much harm to people at all. Apart from attaching themselves to the side of your gut with a bunch of barbs, hooks and suckers, they are content to sit about soaking up your semi-digested dinner. Still, at least it means you've got a good excuse to eat for two.

A traditional treatment for getting rid of a tapeworm is to place a plate of biscuits at either end of your digestive tract (you figure it out) after you’ve starved yourself for a few days. The tapeworm will get hungry, come out for biscuits; you can then smash it with a hammer and kill it. Unsurprisingly this method just isn’t very effective.

The drug Praziquantel will dissolve the worm inside your body and a Gastrografin injection will detach the worm for subsequent, ahem, passage outside of the body. Not quite as dramatic as the hammer method. Modern medicine is so boring.

Interesting fact: Adult tapeworms can lay up to a million eggs a day.

Danger of death: Unlikely, but massive infections can block you up and knock you off your perch pretty quickly. Before the days of refrigeration, tapeworm death was relatively common in Japan due to their love of sushi.

Parasites can be fun: watch the amazing dancing tapeworm. Do you think this was made by someone with a serious Toxoplasma infection?

Back to Top Ten Grim Parasites
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10 Feb 2009
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