If you noticed a white speckled worm writhing or darting around in your soil or in a body of water, chances are it was a flatworm. This thin creature may look complicated, but flatworms are actually the simplest of all worm groups. This group of worms consists of around 20,000 species in they can be found just about anywhere — even the human body. This means, flatworms can be free living or parasitic. In its parasitic state, the flatworm lives off of another living thing called a host. Unfortunately, parasitic flatworms can be dangerous to the human body.
While there tens and thousands of flatworm species, one of the most popular flatworms is a tapeworm. Tapeworms enters the human or animal digestive system through contaminated food, contaminated individuals or animals and even through contaminated beverages. These worms can grow to unbelievable lengths while dining off the host. As the tapeworm grows, it becomes more and more dangerous to the host. Human parasites can cause dozens of different problems in human systems from allergies and asthma to inflammation and immune system deficiency
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Flatworms can also be found in soil, marine, and fresh water and they can be a number of different colors and sizes. They can be solid in color or multi-colored, speckled or striped, and short or long. It just depends on the species.
The flatworm, no matter what the species, the flatworms system is the same. A flatworm has tiny bristles on its skin called cilia and it has no skeleton. The cilia help the flatworm move around along with two layers of muscle under the skin. The flatworm has a digestive and circulatory system – it eliminates waste through the same opening. The flatworm “sees” through two eyespots that allows it to sense light.
Parasitic flatworms, as stated earlier, feed off of the host’s food. Other flatworms feed off of small worms, insects, and microscopic matter. The flatworm is typically very thin and it can be several feet long or microscopic.
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If you have a flatworm infestation, there are several ways to prevent and get rid of them. First, you can prevent human parasites by cooking foods thoroughly, drinking pure water, washing all fruits and vegetables thoroughly, and washing your hands regularly, especially after using the restroom, handling pets or changing diapers. Parasitic flatworms can be treated by using medicated shampoos, prescription creams or oral medications. Oral medications may include: Praziquantel (Biltricide), Albendazole (Albenza) or Niclosamide. Niclosamide is not available in the United States. These medications may be taken for several weeks or months to kill the parasites in your system. The success rate is more than 95% when medications are taken as directed. Symptoms typically disappear within four weeks of treatment.
If you have flatworms in your aquarium a freshwater bath can help get rid of flatworms. However, this is only a short-term solution. The flatworms will eventually return, whether it’s a few months or a few weeks later. A wide range of chemicals is available today to help combat flatworm infestation in systems, but many of them may fall short. Malachite green, which is banned in the U.S., and Paracide F (formalin 37%) are effective at killing flatworm infestations, but again, the effect is short-term, as the flatworms will keep coming back if even one is left behind. Copper has been shown to reduce the reproductive success of flatworms, but it doesn’t completely stop them from reproducing. That said, there is a treatment that seems to work long-term and it is attracting a significant amount of attention in the industry. It’s called Salifert Flatworm Exit.
When used correctly, Salifert Flatworm Exit should kill all flatworms. And according to tests and numerous consumer reviews, the flatworms will not return. To successfully kill flatworms, begin by siphoning out any flatworms in the system. It is important to siphon every area of the system including any crevices, which are excellent hiding places for flatworms. In some cases, consumers forget that flatworms may be hiding in crevices, so they neglect to siphon them out. This means that after ‘killing’ the flatworms, you may notice that they return rather quickly. This is because some of them never left. It is recommended that you use a vacuum, turkey baster or powerhead to siphon out flatworms before and after treating the system. You must siphon out all dead flatworms following treatment because the flatworms’ body juices are toxic and can kill your fish.
Besides siphoning out as many flatworms as possible before treating your system, you should also keep sufficient fresh activated carbon in a canister ready and turn off UV, ozone and remove activated carbon. It is important to keep the skimmer turned on.
While Salifert Flatworm Exit is safe for most fish and invertebrates, it may have a corrosive effect on some sea animals. It won’t kill your sea animals or fish, but it can corrode the skin, which, of course, will regenerate eventually. For more details about how to use Salifert Flatworm Exit and information on how to purchase, visit Marine Depot at www.marinedepot.com.