Tapeworms are among humanity's oldest parasites, and were even studied by the ancient Greeks, yet a safe, effective cure to "bladder-worm" infection remains elusive.
Part of the difficulty, scientists say, is that an adult tapeworm can live relatively harmlessly in a host's gut, but its larvae will spread through the host's body, like cancer, forming cysts in organs and other tissue.
In some hosts, which include dogs, pigs and sheep, infection can lead to blindness, epilepsy or death.
Now, however, scientists say a cure may be close at hand. In a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers say they have mapped the tapeworm's genome, and found key weaknesses in its genetic blueprint.
Among other findings, researchers noted that over time, tapeworms have lost the ability to synthesize the fat and cholesterol necessary to sustain larvae. Instead, they scavenge them from their host.