DES MOINES, Iowa - People will do almost anything to lose weight.
Just ask an Iowa woman, who apparently thought ingesting a live tapeworm was a viable option for losing weight.
That patient recently told her doctor that she had purchased a tapeworm on the Internet and ingested it. The physician called the Iowa Department of Public Health to ask what to do for her. The department's medical director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, advised to prescribe an anti-worm medication.
Quinlisk recounted the incident Thursday in a weekly email to public health workers around the state. She noted that websites have been selling tapeworms as a weight-loss tool, and she warned against the practice.
"Ingesting tapeworms is extremely risky and can cause a wide range of undesirable side effects, including rare deaths," she wrote. "Those desiring to lose weight are advised to stick with proven weight loss methods - consuming fewer calories and increasing physical activity."
Tapeworms are parasites that can live in the intestines of animals and humans. They can be accidentally ingested in undercooked meat.
Quinlisk said that a century ago, hucksters often sold tapeworm eggs in pill form as a weight-loss aid.
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