Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 10th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Spiky Personality
29 April 2016

Spiky Personality

It looks like the stuff of nightmares – a terrifying mouth bristling with spikes, attached to a snake-like monster. And although its head is only about a millimetre in diameter, it can grow up to several metres in length. It’s a pork tapeworm, photographed up close and personal with a scanning electron microscope. Found wherever pork is eaten, these parasites have a complex lifecycle, and both pigs and humans are vital parts of the chain. Tapeworm eggs pass out of an infected person in faeces, and are eaten by pigs in contaminated food or water. The eggs hatch into larvae (cysticerci), which burrow into the animals’ muscles. If eaten by humans in raw or undercooked pork, they hook into the lining of the gut, producing more eggs to continue the nightmarish cycle. Even worse, if the eggs hatch in humans, cysticerci can infect organs such as the brain and cause seizures.

Entries for this year's Royal Photographic Society International Images in Science competition are welcomed until 1 May 2016

Written by Kat Arney

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