Intestinal Worms: Infestations; Alleged Benefits; Historical Treatments

I read in the regular newspaper that Bette Midler and some other hollywood denizens
did this for weight loss.
Since the story ran nationwide and Bette never sued or denied it , it might be true.
On TV they showed the large capsule used to house the worms for swallowing.
Eccchhhh ! (Please don't be true)
As much as this topic makes me queasy, I have a family story that involves something like this.
Many years ago, one of my aunts started going over to Mexico to buy diet pills. She lost a lot of weight fast, and one of her brothers became concerned for her health. He told her "you keep taking those pills and you'll be dead in a year." As it happened, she did die. The official cause was cancer. However, other family members, being suspicious of those capsules she was taking, dissolved one in water and found a worm...

Well, that's what they said. I did not see this alleged worm myself. That branch of the family is not particularly known for being liars. Now if it were another branch, I'd be more suspicious. So who knows?
I reckon they would more likely be amphetamine - surely you wouldn't need to take regular worms?
A 45-year-old man in Nanning, southern China, has been treated for parasites he developed from his love of raw beef and sashimi. Doctors spent five days removing a beef tapeworm 5 meters (about 15 feet) in length from his body. The operation was finished on March 21 at the 303 Hospital in Nanning, capital of Guangxi Province, China Times News reported. He was also affected with Oriental liver flukes. ...
I remember a TV medical show not so long ago where the two doctors presenting it deliberately swallowed tapeworm eggs so as to monitor, scientifically, the subsequent course of events and test out, in a "Mythbusters" sort of way, if some of the old stories were true. For the next three months they ate as normal, checking their weight for any inexplicable weight loss (both lost a couple of pounds, but reported that this was inconclusive and could have been normal fluctuation). They also tested out if ultrasound could be used a diagnostic measure - could the presence of a worm in the gut be "seen" by ultrasound? Again, not completely conclusive, as the worm was not detected in one doctor, but examination of the other showed something, errr, Alien, was in there. Could it escape upwards through the mouth? When the worm was "expelled" later in the experiment, parts of its body were subjected to the sort of acid conditions to be found in the stomach: the conclusion was that it would have to be one tough worm indeed to make its way through an acid environment without damage. As well as through the two sphincters at each end of the stomach which are there for a reason.

The doctors called an end to the experiment when they realised about "motility" - tapeworms, when ready to reproduce, detach sections of themselves that make their own way out, so to speak, and contaminate clothing, bedlinen, bedspaces, et c as they seek a new recipient for their eggs. (Yup. Self-propelled reproductive sections with egg-sacs capable of a degree of independent movement, seeking out new hosts. Alien again).

Deciding it wasn't fair on those around them and that they could be the epicentre of further infection, they called a halt and tested methods of getting rid. One man took vermicidal drugs: the other initally starved himself to see if that worked, then gave up out of a not unreasonable desire for something ot eat, then took the vermicide.

Both then gathered together the expelled worm parts (dedication to duty) and they were carefully stretched on a tarpaulin for measurement. They realised in three short months the eggs had become three metre long worms - ten feet parasites....

I'll look and see if I can track the show down, if anyone's interested.

And thinking of the obvious parellels... how much of this stuff "infected" the fertile mind of Ridley Scott when planning a certain movie...
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I've never understood how having a tapeworm makes you lose weight.

The worm is still inside you after it's eaten, so why would you get lighter? Or thinner?

I'm sure I'm being thick. OR MAYBE I'M A GEEENEEUS.
Isn't the tapeworm supposed to eat the excess food in your stomach then you're lighter and less fat when you get rid of it?
But the tapeworm is still inside you when it's eaten the food, and they live for ages don't they?

I guess it burns off the calories by just...erm.... slithering about in yer guts?
I don't know the ins and outs of getting rid of tapeworms, but I doubt you'd have to wait ages to go to the doctor to get it removed. Anyway, I think it's an urban myth so it wouldn't work.
But the tapeworm is still inside you when it's eaten the food, and they live for ages don't they?

I guess it burns off the calories by just...erm.... slithering about in yer guts?
The tapeworm sheds segments regularly. Those bits come out with the poo.
Surely the point is that the worm is digesting the food intended for you. Leaving your gut full of not-very-nutritious worm crap!
As far as I know, the adult can't move. (Doesn't need to.)
It's those offspring egg sac things that can crawl.

No, you're thinking of threadworms. They infest the host by being swallowed as eggs smeared onto food by dirty hands.
The worms emerge from the host's anus at night to lay eggs. The worms' wriggling causes itching and the host scratches in their sleep, getting eggs on their fingers and under the nails.

The tapeworm reproduces in a different way. Its lower segments break off and are passed with faeces. If the faeces are eaten by pigs (say by contamination of vegetation) the animals' flesh is contaminated with larvae which are eaten with the meat. That's why pork has to be well-done.

If you google-image 'tapeworm life cycle' you'll get the, er, picture.

I was taught about tapeworms in biology at school and was fascinated. :)
Anyway, this is not our only intestinal worms thread. I can remember discussing the 'dieting tapeworms' at length some years ago.

In the '70s when I was a teenager there were stories of elderly people in nursing homes being found to be still infected 50 years after taking their first 'diet pill'. The pill contained the tapeworm eggs, to be followed a set time later by a second pill which would kill off the parasite. However, so the story went, they'd be so pleased with the results that they'd decide not to take the second pill and so would remain infected.

It seemed unclear to me how much they knew about what was going on. Some accounts had it that the patients asked for this fashionable treatment and knew they were harbouring a tapeworm and wanted to keep it to carry on with the benefits they supposedly saw to their figures.

Others had it that the patient didn't know they were taking on a tapeworm and that they'd forgotten the last tablet, or lost it or whatever.

This was supposed to have happened in the 1920s, when there were still plenty of people around who'd indeed had a roaring time and were happy to discuss it. At that time I knew and spoke with people who'd served in the First World War. They were 10 years older than the Flappers and had all their marbles, bless'em!
tape worms.jpg
The slogan No Diet, No Baths, No Exercise! could be written on banners. Except no one would get off the couch to carry them.

I love the implication that a tape-worm "friend" would help you maintain a sylph-like figure, while indulging a taste for prunes-and-mustard.

If we stuck to that, we could dipense with the wriggly chum! :oops:

Edit: The more I look at that ad. the more disturbing it becomes. Here is an image of a woman postitively embracing a cornucopia of processed foods and placing her trust in a jar-packed worm-saviour to remedy their effect!
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This potentially deadly parasite seems to be proliferating in recent years.
A deadly parasite that burrows into the body through bare feet could be multiplying in this US community

When the letter arrived with the logo of a noted university in the corner, Veronica Reyes Ibarra expected good news. ...

“Using a research diagnostic blood test,” the letter read, “we have determined that you may have been infected with a parasite.” The letter advised Reyes Ibarra to seek medical treatment.

Fifteen other residents of the tiny Texas community where Reyes Ibarra lives received the same test result, after dozens gave blood and stool samples for an academic study. They ranged from a woman who was pregnant to a two-year-old child.

The intestinal parasite is known by its scientific name, Strongyloides (pronounced stron-ji-LOY-dees). It inhabits the guts of humans and other animals, and its larvae are excreted during defecation. If the larvae are able to contaminate soil – for instance, because of a sewage leak – they can survive for up to three weeks. In one common infection pathway, they can burrow through the skin of a person walking barefoot, entering the bloodstream, then the lungs, and ascend the windpipe, where they are coughed up and then swallowed. ...

Strongyloides can survive undetected in humans for decades, producing generation after generation. But at certain moments – such as when the host is taking steroids – they can become deadly. ...
Research into the possible benefits of helminth (worm) infestation -
(Safe The Scientist link)
Return of the Worms

Immunologists and parasitologists are working to revive the idea that helminths, and more specifically the molecules they secrete, could help treat allergies and autoimmune disease.

In the middle of 2020, Alex Loukas deliberately infected himself with intestinal worms.


There were several reasons that Loukas wanted the parasitic worms, or helminths, on board.

For one thing, his research at James Cook University in Australia focuses on multiple aspects of N. americanus biology, and as obligate human parasites, these intestinal worms just don’t grow very well outside of people.


Loukas has also, in the course of his research, developed the view that infection with N. americanus and other intestinal helminths, which together are thought to inhabit at least 2 billion people worldwide, isn’t always harmful.

In fact, he argues, work by his group and others indicates that there could be some unique benefits to controlled, low-level infection with certain worm species, particularly for combating so-called Western diseases, including allergies, autoimmune disorders, and various other inflammation-related conditions.
A newly published archaeological survey study has evaluated the relative incident of parasitic gut worm infestations through UK history since the Roman era.
Study Reveals British History's Most Worm-Infested People, And It's Not Who You Think

Forget the faithful hound. The animal that has been most truly loyal to humans throughout history has been that quiet freeloader, the intestinal worm – a tiny beast that has stuck with us through rich and poor, war and peace, feast and famine.

We haven't always made it so easy for our chummy parasites, though. According to a team of British archaeologists, our relationship with gut helminths has varied considerably throughout the ages. ...

To dig deeper into the demographics of intestinal worm infections, the researchers behind this recent investigation analyzed the remains of 464 humans buried at 17 sites around the UK, all dating from prehistoric to industrial periods.

In more than a quarter of the bodies, they uncovered clear signs of nematodes (roundworm) belonging to the genuses Ascaris and Trichuris and food-transmitted cestodes (flatworms) Taenia and Diphyllobothrium latum.

By far the most common wriggler was the roundworm, Ascaris. Even today, this parasite is a common form of infection, making itself at home in around a billion people's guts and putting the growth and development of young children at risk.

A great time to be a roundworm was during the Roman occupation, particularly in Canterbury. In spite of having a reputation for sanitation and love of a good social chat while defecating (or perhaps because of it), more than one in five Romans would have carried a churning gut full of Ascaris worms.

Similar percentages of infection were among bodies buried in Anglo-Saxon and High Medieval Ipswich, and in Industrial London. ...

Roman and High Medieval periods were both glory days for roundworms and whipworms all over the land, it seems, with infections peaking in late medieval times. ...

More of a monky pox than a monkey pox but I think it fits here, Anyway they had a crap lifestyle.

Medieval monks "appear to have been riddled with parasites" despite having access to hand-washing facilities and latrine blocks, a study has found.

The discovery was made during an analysis of adult skeletons found in excavations in Cambridge. It revealed the friars were twice as likely to suffer from parasitic worms than the townsfolk.

The difference may be due to monks manuring crops in friary gardens with their own faeces, the study suggests.

Cambridge University researcher Tianyi Wang said roundworm was the most common infection, but whipworm infection was also found.

"These are both spread by poor sanitation," she added.

Sanitation in medieval towns relied on cesspits - holes in the ground used for faeces and household waste. In contrast, monasteries commonly had running water systems, including to rinse out latrine blocks, and hand-washing facilities.

The researchers tested samples of soil around the pelvises of remains of 19 monks and 25 locals.

Isn't the tapeworm supposed to eat the excess food in your stomach then you're lighter and less fat when you get rid of it?
The tapeworm anchors itself in your intestine, not your stomach. There it absorbs the nutrition, and calories of course, from the food your body is trying to digest.