How do worms survive in stomach acid?


How do worms survive in stomach acid?

In: 21

Usually when get worms it’s because you’ve eaten worm eggs and they’ve got a protective shell. Your stomach acids break down the shell and allows the worm to hatch in the intestines.

The short answer is, they don’t. Worms are highly evolved parasites, and any that live in the guts of animals usually got there as eggs. Parasitic gut worms evolved to have eggs capable of resisting stomach acid. It’s not till they’ve made their way further into the intestines where the acid isn’t a big deal that they hatch into putrid little gut parasites that eat your half-digested food.

Parasites are not typically found in the stomach, as the stomach’s acidity makes it an inhospitable environment for them to survive. The stomach is specifically designed to break down food with the help of hydrochloric acid, which has a pH of around 1-2, and it is extremely acidic. It is able to kill most bacteria and parasites that may be present in food or water.

However, some parasites, such as some tapeworms, have developed a protective covering called a ‘scolex’ which allows them to attach to the stomach or intestinal wall. The scolex is a specialized structure found at the head of tapeworms, it’s like a suction cup that allows them to attach to the intestinal wall, and it’s a key element that enables them to survive in the stomach acid.

The scolex is covered with small hooks or suckers, which help the tapeworm to attach itself to the intestinal/stomach wall. Once attached, the tapeworm secretes enzymes that dissolve the mucus layers and the host’s tissue, allowing it to feed on the host’s nutrients while being protected by the mucosa and by its own body.

Additionally, the scolex also contains a thick cuticle, which acts as a barrier, protecting the tapeworm from the stomach acid. This cuticle is made up of a complex mixture of proteins and lipids, it’s resilient to the harsh acidic environment and it allows the tapeworm to survive in the stomach.


Additionally, some parasites such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium and some strains of E.coli can survive in stomach acid for a short period of time, but that’s not their usual habitat.