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A. Kimo Morris morrisk at bcc.orst.edu
Sun Mar 9 20:50:25 EST 1997

Mike wrote:
> X-No-Archive: yes
> I would like to know about any potential application there is of
> beneficial impact of tapeworms on humans, or for that matter, any other
> animals.  Can they help me diet?  Is there any documented evidence or
> information on any sort of symbiotic relationship between tapeworms and
> humans, or any other animal.  They clear the gut... the intestines, right?
> What precisely do they eat?  I would be gratified if someone truly
> knowledgeable on the subject could make some comments.
> Presumably if they live from one host to the next, one of the host animal
> they live in must not be considerably disadvantaged by this...


Graham Clark correctly pointed out in this thread, that tapeworm eggs 
were advertised in the early part of this century as a diet aid for 
women.  In hindsight, this idea was silly.  Omar Barriga rightfully 
pointed out that adult tapeworms in humans inflict little pathology 
(often unnoticable).

I wanted to add another interesting point.  Adult tapeworms exhibit 
competition for space, and some worms (in moderate to heavy 
infections) can be forced to reside in a less desirable area of the 
gut.  This often decreases the feeding efficiency of the worms 
collectively, and they become stunted.  I remember in my intro to 
parasitology class, we infected three rats with varying intensities of 
H. diminuta worm burdens (1, 10, and 50 cysticercoids).  The rat with 
the 50 worms did not appear any less healthy after two months, and the 
worms that were crowded were an order of magnitude smaller than the 
worm in the single infection.  We suspected that one or two "happy" 
worms in the gut actually take more host energy than 50 competing 

SO, THE PUNCHLINE:  The women in the '20s who were popping worm pills 
(no doubt thinking that more is better) probably loaded themselves 
with many worms in hopes that "more worms" would mean more weight 
loss, but ended up making a worthless effort even more worthless (if 
such a thing is possible).  

So, women (and men), if you want to loose weight, stay away from the 
adult cestodes...  they'll just frustrate you.  I suggest using a 
different critter to solve your weight woes.  Perhaps a nice Ascaris 
worm or two... no more than a dozen though.  Please consult the 
nearest parasitologists who works with malnutrition inducing 
parasites. They might be able to provide you with what you need.  (of 
course, I'm kidding).  ;-)

You're welcome,

-- Kimo

A. Kimo Morris              |
Department of Entomology    | Office   - (541)737-2453
Oregon State University     | FAX      - (541)737-3643
Cordley Hall 2046           | Internet - morrisk at bcc.orst.edu
Corvallis,OR 97331-2907,USA | http://www.orst.edu/~morriaar
"I hope that some animal never bores a hole in my head and lays
its eggs in my brain, because later you might think you're
having a good idea but it's just eggs hatching" -- Jack Handy

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