When thinking of the word food, the average person often imagines a home-cooked meal made with mama’s own recipe, a slab of wet-rubbed barbeque ribs smothered in Sweet Baby Ray’s, or perhaps a decadent slice of German chocolate cake, maybe the cake in its entirety if you please. The imagery that comes to mind is usually positive and mouth-watering. This article about food, however, will focus on the not-so-pleasant imagery that relates to food and what you need to do in order to avoid these undesirables from turning your intestine into their impenetrable fortress.
Meet Taenia, the pork tapeworm. Taenia is a type of parasitic worm that, thanks to evolution, has multiple different stages of larvae and a self-fertilizing adult stage that loves to live in various hosts, an example of selective advantage at its best. Humans are accustomed to housing the adult tapeworm in their intestine. Because tapeworms don’t attack in packs, they contain both male and female reproductive parts and can self-fertilize in order to reproduce. The worms create proglottids, which are segments of the worm that contain both sperm and eggs and these are passed through fecal matter to the unguarded world. These proglottids shed coverings freeing the eggs and eventually creating an embryo, embryophore larval stage, held in an oncosphere (an embryo that has six hooks… you’ll see) which is then ingested by pigs. After finding its new host, the oncosphere is liberated in the intestine of the pig and bores into the blood vessels of the animals where it is in turn carried to the muscles of the pig and develops into a cysticercus (larval form of the tapeworm with a retracted head). Sometimes when people go camping, they decide to drink a lot of booze. Then they decide to make a fire and cook some food, now and again that food isn’t cooked all the way. After ingesting the raw meat, the cysticercus thrusts its head outward and attaches itself to the intestinal wall of a person. The creature is resilient as its head, or scolex, is comprised of numerous hooks and suckers to withstand all forces in order to cling to the intestinal wall where it camps out and steals your nutrients.
Taenia is ferocious and unless paralyzing a scolex and ingesting an extreme laxative sounds like your kind of party, cook your chicken, pork, and beef.
Written By: Ellen Keaveny