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Difference between Tapeworm and Roundworm

Tapeworm vs Roundworm

Amongst the various organisms causing intestinal infections, parasites have a shockingly high presence. Most people harbour intestinal parasites without having any symptoms. Almost a billion people worldwide are hosts to roundworms. Especially predominant in developing and under-developed nations, the lack of clean, potable water is the chief reason for such high rates of parasitism.

Roundworms or nematodes are of multiple types but the commonest one affecting humans is called as Ascaris lumbricoides. It looks very much like the garden worm and is a giant worm. It is typically found in warm countries like south-east Asia, African continent, Indian subcontinent and parts of Europe. The worm may grow up to 25 cms length. The female worm has a hooked end and can be identified easily in stools. The eggs of roundworm get transferred to human beings via contaminated soil. The eggs break upon in the intestines to release adult worms that complete remaining growth inside the human body. They migrate to lungs and liver too and might produce symptoms there.

Tapeworm is a flattened worm also called as Cestode. There are two species, Taenia saginata and Taenia solium. They are both infections of animals and acquired via uncooked beef and pork respectively. They can also infest by consumption of contaminated water. The eggs (cysticerci) adhere to the walls of the intestines and break into adult worms. These worms start deriving nutrition from the food we eat and lead to weight loss, malnutrition and vague abdominal pain. The eggs might enter circulation directly through the intestines and circulate through the body. The circulating worms may get deposited in other tissues like eyes, brain, muscles, nerves or heart. There they might block blood vessels leading to more grave consequences.

A roundworm infection is often without any symptoms. Symptoms of roundworm infestation can be weight loss despite adequate appetite and diet, mild abdominal pain, worms in stool, cough when the worms re-enter the gastrointestinal system from lungs. Symptoms of obstruction of the gastrointestinal system might be seen as perforation/ obstruction of the intestines which are medical emergencies.

Tapeworm infestations often lead to malabsorption of nutrients, vague abdominal symptoms like nausea or pain. While circulating they might block a blood vessel that can lead to death of the tissues supplied by the blood vessel (infarction). This is a medical emergency and needs to be treated immediately. If they adhere in the brain then they lead to seizures.

Diagnosis of roundworm is done by examination of a stool sample under a microscope. Tapeworms are diagnosed by swabs around the anus and microscopic stool sample examination. X-rays of particular parts might show the egg producing symptoms.

Roundworm treatment is by larvicides and wormicides. Treatment for tapeworm too is by wormicides. The eggs that get deposited might need surgical removal in certain cases.

Take home pointers:

Roundworm is a garden-worm like parasite that dwells in the small intestine and produces symptoms like weight loss, anorexia, malabsorption. Worms can be seen in the stool and coughed up too sometimes. Diagnosis is by stool sample examination. Treatment is by wormicides.

Tapeworms are flat worms that infect man via uncooked beef and pork and water contaminated with the eggs of tapeworm. The eggs enter circulation and reach other parts of the body and adhere to tissues like muscles, brain, eye, heart etc and cause symptoms there. Diagnosis is by examination of stool sample. Treatment is by wormicides.

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