What is an Acanthocephalan?
An acanthocephalan is a parasitic worm with thorn-like or spiny heads. They are commonly called thorny-headed worms and are named after their shape. Acantha (or Akantha) is Greek for thorn, and Cephalan (or Kephale) means head. There are only about 1,150 species of acanthocephalans . An Acanthocephalan has a characteristic, retractable proboscis with spine-like structures to fasten itself in a host’s intestines. Common types of Acanthocephalan worms are Moniliformis moniliformis, Macracanthorynchus hirudinaceus, and Macracanthorynchus ingens .
Their hollow trunks house their excretory, nervous, and reproductive systems. They live in various vertebrate hosts, but infections in humans are rare. Hosts include rats, pigs, raccoons, foxes, bony fishes, and intermediate insect hosts like cockroaches and beetles .