Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Survival Tip #337 The Bolivian Banded Tapeworm

A warning, this one is kinda gross

The rare and dangerous Bolivian Banded Tapeworm is known to show a rudimentary intelligence on par with pigs, as well as finely tuned survival instincts. The Bolivian Banded Tapeworm is so named because of alternating bands of green, black, and gray down the length of its body. Those unfortunate enough to be infested with the parasite are faced with an uphill battle to remove it from their bodies.

The tapeworm can be contracted in a number of ways. The flesh of the fierce Bolivian Giant Boar usually contains the worm. If not properly cooked, larval forms of the worm can enter the body and take hold. The same can be said for improperly prepared fish caught in the rivers and lakes of Bolivia. Additionally, if one is swimming in waters populated by the tapeworm, the parasite is known to launch its eggs into the water to float like seeds carried on the wind.

Once the parasite gains a foothold in the body, a battle is waged if more than one tapeworm is present. The worms fight by means of chemical warfare. Each worm secrets a toxin that is unique to its DNA that will poison the other tapeworms. Typically, this will leave one worm left to thrive and grow. In rare cases, all of the tapeworms will die. Meanwhile, during this initial stage, the toxins leave the host feeling euphoric. Once one of the Bolivian Banded Tapeworms has achieved dominance, it will act like most tapeworms, positioning itself in the digestive tract and feeding off of food consumed by the host.

“My body is a temple, and I take in a precise amount of nutrition every day. So, I couldn’t understand when I started losing weight,” said Guy Friendly, fitness guru and former host of the self-help talk show Put Down That Candy Bar and Pick Up Your Self Esteem. “I contacted my physician and he found traces of the tapeworm’s toxins in my blood. I must have gotten the worm when I traveled to Bolivia on an outreach mission earlier in the year. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten their food! It took several different treatments to rid my temple of the defiler, and each time, the tapeworm fought back, making me weak and sick. Eventually, the impurity was removed and my temple has been rebuilt better than ever.”

As stated above, the Bolivian Banded Tapeworm shows signs of intelligence and a survival instinct well honed over the course of its evolution. If the worm detects that the host is trying to remove it, it will fight back. There are two methods by which the worm will fight back. First it will increase its food intake to simultaneously strengthen itself and weaken its prey. The stronger tapeworm is then better able to survive a sustained attack. The other method is to attack the host with a neurotoxin. By this method, the Bolivian Banded Tapeworm will paralyze its host. The worm can then bide its time, waiting for a new host to consume it or its eggs. In the mean time, it is able to draw some sustenance from the host’s inter body by siphoning off of a blood vessel.

A person who unwittingly plays host to the Bolivian Banded Tapeworm can have difficulty removing the worm because of this. But that does not mean that there is no hope. One of the most popular methods of eliminating the worm once it has been discovered is for a physician to administer controlled amounts of the same chemical the worms use to gain dominance within the host’s body. Since the chemical given off by each worm is unique to its DNA, there is little concern about the treatment being ineffective. Also, because the worm will interpret this as an attack from a rival worm, it will not fight back against the host. The other method, while effective, is viewed by many as unpleasant.

(Translated from Spanish) “Last June, my son, Jose, was swimming in the Rio Beni, and shortly after, he started losing a lot of weight and looking sickly,” said Juan Ruiz, professional llama racer. “My mamma knew right away that it was the Bolivian Banded Tapeworm and she told us about an old remedy that her grandmother taught her. Since the tapeworm is a little smart, it can be trained in a way. Every day at exactly 3 p.m. Jose would eat some fruit. We did this for a month and then had him stop. Sure enough the worm had gotten used to the regular feeding and when no fruit came, it crawled up to find the food. Jose started choking a little and I was waiting. I saw the worm’s head appear at the back of his mouth and reached in with some tongs. Once I had it, I very carefully pulled it out. Jose has been fine since, and now the children have a pet. We keep it in a large bowl, and the kids love to show it off when people come over.”

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