I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Black Conrad Cat has a tapeworm infection. No wonder he eats so much. When I was stocking up on catfood at the supermarket, I bought anti-worm medication too. My previous cat got too old and slow to go out much, so I hadn’t needed to keep up with this kind of medical technology. That’s why I was so surprised to open the packet, expecting pills, to find it’s a substance you put on the back of his neck.

Yes, you heard me. It’s a little tube of about 5ml of oily liquid that you rub into the skin of the affected animal. The back of the neck so that it can’t be licked off. This seems so unlikely, but we’ll just have to see. Parasite in intestine: treat back of neck. It’s a bit like reflexology or similar voodoo.

tapeworm

Tapeworms are amazing creatures. Their lifecycle can only be completed by alternately infecting a primary host and an intermediate host of a different species. There are two general methods of reproduction used by different tapeworms. One is to shed little body segments containing fertilised eggs in the host’s faeces. The next host has to ingest these somehow. I’ll leave it to your imagination.

The commonest tapeworm infection suffered by cats and dogs uses the flea as its intermediate host — flea larvae living on the animal eat the eggs, and then are eaten themselves when they become adults and start biting.

In the alternative strategy, only the primary-to-intermediate transmission is via faeces. For intermediate-to-primary, (herbivore to carnivore, usually), the juvenile tapeworm burrows into the muscle of its intermediate host, not the digestive system, forms a little cyst capsule for itself, and waits to be eaten. That’s why humans can become infected through eating inadequately-cooked meat, and another way in which cats and dogs which eat wild prey can get infected. The primary host then excretes worm segments, and off we go again.

But intestinal worms are not the only parasites which can infect your body. There are species that can live in your liver, your heart and even your brain. In fact, I found this very interesting list of where different species of parasite can live in humans.

Alimentary tract 197 species
Cavities, organs, and tissues 107 species
Circulatory system 21 species
Skin and tissues 56 species
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