Adult tapeworm
Adult tapeworms can live for up to 20 years in a host. LiveScience

A Chinese woman unknowingly became host to an 8ft tapeworm after eating almost raw beef while on holiday in south-east Asia.

The woman, known only as Mrs Li, visited a doctor in Xiamen in China's Fujan province after becoming concerned about strange fluids in her stools.

The doctor diagnosed her with teniasis, an intestinal tapeworm infection, caused by eating undercooked meat.

The parasite lays its eggs in cysts which live in animals. If the meat is not cooked properly, the eggs hatch and grow in the human intestine.

The Chinese woman was able to pass the tapeworm through her system after being treated with traditional Chinese medicine.

However, she was horrified to learn what was causing her medical problems. "It's disgusting and almost makes me faint," Li said in a Mirror report.

The tapeworm is among the oldest known parasites in the world. They vary in size, from 6 inches to 26 feet long depending on the type of tapeworm infection.

Six types of tapeworms are known to infect people. They are usually identified by the animals they come from -- for example Taenia saginata from beef, Taenia solium from pork, and Diphyllobothrium latum from fish.

Often having tapeworms does not cause symptoms, but may cause abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea and loss of appetite. The only sign of tapeworm infection may be segments of the worms, possibly moving, in a bowel movement.

In rare cases, tapeworms can lead to serious complications, including blocking the intestine. If pork tapeworm eggs are accidentally swallowed, they can migrate to other parts of the body and cause damage to the liver, eyes, heart, and brain. These infections can be life-threatening.

Watch the video of tapeworm being removed from a human gut