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Flatworms

For humans, the protozoa are not the only parasites. Other organisms also see humans as very hospitable hosts. Some externals parasites are the well known ticks, lice, and mites - these are external parasites or ectoparasites, these organisms feed on the humans without actually entering the body or the tissues. As far as possible fatalities and human disease is concerned, however, far more important are two groups of internally parasitic worms - the endoparasites which actually reside within the body and feed on digested food, blood and even living tissue. These are the simple multicellular organisms such as the flatworms and the roundworms, which have sacrificed free-living for a freeloading lifestyle within their human host.

Tapeworm

Tapeworms are commonly carried in the tissues of fish, cattle and pigs-all of which are carriers of the tapeworm and act as vectors for the transmission of the parasite to the host. The consumption of improperly cooked fish or pork is therefore not advised due to this danger. The long and ribbon like appearance of the adult worm gives the tapeworms their name - the adult organism may sometimes extend several feet long when stretched out. The worm larvae that a person who eats raw or undercooked meat accidentally, attaches itself to the walls of the small intestine-the worm posses hooks and suckers on the head like protuberance, here the worm will feed on the digested food of the host and may grow to become sixty feet long - which is more than eighteen meters fully stretched out. Such worms are the ultimate parasite, evolutionary well adapted to the environment that it finds itself in-these extremely interesting creatures conducts its life for living comfortably off the hosts. Thus a tapeworm posses no mouth and there are no traces of a digestive system as it absorbs food already digested by the human host. The animal lost all of these organs over time by completely adapting itself to this way of life. Thus the tapeworm soaks up digested nutrients like a sponge within the host and lives protected from the external environment.

Only the ability to perpetuate the species has been retained by the animal and to this end the tapeworm still possesses a highly developed reproductive system, which continues to assure future generations of the species. All tapeworms and most internal parasites are hermaphroditic. Which is to say that each and every individual worm will posses both testes and ovaries - both male and female sets of sexual organs. All the eggs that the animal will ever produce are thus self-fertilized and these are then released in large numbers in the feces of the host. Eventually and accounting for the vast number of eggs-a few of these find their way into the body of a fish or a cow or pig through animal food contaminated with human feces. Depending on the species which acts as the vector, the worm will then begin a new life cycle in the animal host and the cycle of infection will continue-assuring the perpetuation of the species. The eradication of the disease and the elimination of most internal parasites of the digestive system therefore depends on the careful and regulated maintenance of proper sanitation and effective disposal of sewage. In addition and as a preventive measure, the thorough cooking of all meat and fish will result in the elimination of the larvae-this will prevent infection from occurring even if the meat is infested by the worm larvae.

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An infestation of tapeworms will make a person physically weak, cause malnourishment, and will often induce an anemic state in a person. Tapeworms can also induce severe diarrhea and related problem in the digestive system of the infected individual. Serious complications and fatalities have been known in some cases, where the worm travels to other vital organs in the body-such as the lungs and the brain. A brain riddled by small and numerous encysted tapeworms was the cause of death for a woman on whom doctors conducted an autopsy, after she died due to sudden epileptic convulsions, therefore these parasites are dangerous for humans. In the majority of cases however, an infection with these tapeworms will not bring on life-threatening situations and is not even particularly debilitating to the person-most people are not even aware that they carry worms within them. Direct sighting of fragments of the worm is the usual way by which individuals may become aware of a tapeworm infestation-this may occur when a body segment of the worm breaks off and comes out in the stool of the person. Medications which literally put the worm to sleep are the usual modes of eliminating these worms from the digestive system, and any chance of destroying these worms involves the use of oral medications as only chemicals will defeat the strong grip that these organisms maintain on the lining of the intestines. The action of chemicals in drugs is the only way for the worm to release its tight anchor on the intestinal walls. This flushes out the worm similar to the action of a purgative agent. Tapeworm heads need to be removed from the body, otherwise rest of the body may simply grow back over time and the worm will survive.

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Schistosomiasis

This disease is caused by worms called flukes and the adult fluke is much smaller compared to the adult tapeworms, however, what the flukes lack in size they make up in the sheer devastation they cause within the body of the host. A particularly nasty fluke is the fluke, known simply as the blood fluke or the schistosome, the extent of disability and debilitation crated by this internal parasite world wide is next only to the effect of malaria. Due to the enormous range in the symptoms induced by the flukes, one cannot predict with any degree of accuracy, as to the number of people suffering from some form of schistosomiasis around the world. The affected person is weakened and dies in very uncomfortable and unpleasant manners arising from the actions of the worm inside the body. Blood fluke infections can give rise to conditions such as heart disease and epilepsy, disorders such as kidney failure can result, in addition, disorders like the cirrhosis of the liver and the degeneration of the lung and even cancer may all arise as symptoms in the victim.

It is during puberty that the earliest signs of schistosomiasis often occur in the unfortunate victim. Some of the physical symptoms felt at this stage include the sudden occurrence of strange and scary events - such as the sudden and inexplicable reddening of the urine with blood-this is almost always a shock to the victim. This event is even considered as a sort of male menstruation in parts of the African continent as it is very common as an event; this reddening of the urine with blood is the signal for the onset of the disease, among boys infected with the condition.

The appearance of bloody urine is caused by the actions of the parasite within the body of the victim and is merely one manifestation of the symptoms induced within the human host by the parasite. The tiny schistosome larvae gain entry into the body of a new healthy individual by entering the body when an individual and quite often a young child bathes or wades into water infested with larvae - for example, a farmer who wades through rice paddy, may be entering waters that are teeming with millions of tiny schistosome larvae, these enter the body and grow into adult flukes. Infection results when these tadpoles like larvae, which are just the size of pinheads penetrate the skin, the passage of these larvae into the body will induce an initial and temporary rash in the body of the host-this first sign, usually fades away. The end of infection is not this sudden fading off and total disappearance of the rash - the fluke is merely biding its time within the body. Soon afterwards, following this short interval, the worm larvae gain entry into the bloodstream and are transported by the blood or travel initially to the liver. Inside the liver these larvae mature into adult worms, and from this organ they then enter a vein. This is the place where the schistosome resides and begins its parasitic phase. Different schistosome species will choose specific vein for parasitic activities. For example, a particular species will travel straight to the veins found in the lower intestinal area. While another species of fluke, prefer to settles in veins found in the upper intestine. Another species of flukes reside within the veins that surround the urinary bladder.

The physical size of the male schistosomes is about three-quarters of an inch and they are stout little worms. Attachment of the worm to the inner walls of veins is by two suckers on the head like anterior region. The physically narrower and shorter females, settle into the grooves like recesses that run down the entire length of the male worm's body. Thus the females remain within the male body in a sort of monogamous conjugal arrangement for the rest of their lives - the lifespan of the female worms may last as long as thirty years in some cases. The main role of the females for most of the thirty years lies in the continuous production of enormous amounts of eggs - the females on a single male may average about thirty-five hundred eggs on a single day, this reproductive rate ensures the perpetuation of the race.

The chief cause of pathogenic effects on the victims is due to these vast number of worm eggs-these must find their way to the outside and cause symptoms as they make their way into different areas of the body. The larval forms arising from these eggs do not remain long in the venous home of their parents - they immediately begin to burrow into the blood vessel, propelled by a desire to make their way outside the body. The eggs need find their way into the interior of the urinary bladder or into intestine, from where they might be ejected with the urine or feces produced by the host-this is a necessary condition for the spread of the flukes to other hosts. The next stage in the life cycle of the flukes can only continue outside the human body, this stage of the life cycle requires a new host and the worms must now parasitize a water snail. In areas where there are no water snails or in areas that have entirely different snail species - the larval flukes will die out and cannot develop into the forms which are capable of infecting humans - once they are ejected with urine or feces, the larvae have just a day to find a new snail host failing which they die out. Thus the chain of transmission and the spread of the schistosomes parasite is stopped and the chain of infection is broken if snail hosts are not found at the right time. This elimination of water snails, should theoretically lead to the full control and elimination of the parasite, this is however, complicated by the unfortunate fact that snail populations in waters contaminated by human feces and urine is very high in much of the third-world tropics-which are regions hardest hit by this parasite.

The enormous numbers of eggs and larvae that is produced by the worm is to assure continual survival of the species as the majority of the larvae from eggs which begin their journey in the veins of the host will never survive to enter into the lumen of the intestine or urinary bladder of a new human host. In addition, all larvae that enter the body may never reach target tissues, and most are entangled within the tissues of different organs, where they are responsible for triggering a cascade of immune system responses and sudden physiological reactions from the body of the host. The areas in which the eggs are entangled will show a lot of inflammation and swelling in the tissues. The varied symptoms of schistosomiasis will finally set in due to these reactions and the development of abnormal tissue masses starts.

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