Echinococcosis is a parasitic infection primarily caused by Echinococcus granulosus, Echinococcus multilocularis, Echinococcus vogeli tapeworms that affect both mammals (dogs, cats, horses, sheep, foxes, coyotes, rodents) and humans. Echinococcosis is a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD)*.
* Neglected Tropical Diseases are chronic infections that are typically endemic in low income countries. They prevent affected adults and children from going to school, working, or fully participating in community life, contributing to stigma and the cycle of poverty.
Echinococcus tapeworms are found worldwide, but the infection is endemic in Central America, South America, and some areas of North America and Asia. Travellers can become ill after coming into close contact with infected animals or their stools, as well as incidentally ingesting eggs found in contaminated water and undercooked food. Hikers, trekkers, hunters and livestock handlers are at greater risk. Echinococcosis also poses a risk to farmers and veterinarians.
Echinococcosis is characterized by cysts growing at different rates forming in the liver, lungs, and other organs such as the spleen, abdomen, heart.
Alveolar Echinococcosis, resulting from Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworms, targets the liver and causes liver failure. The infection can move to the lungs and brain causing cancer.
Cystic Echinococcosis, a result of Echinococcus granulosus infection, is the most common form of the illness where cysts grow in the liver and lungs over months or years and is asymptomatic – persons do not exhibit symptoms – until the cyst exerts pressure. This form of the illness is also known as Hydatid Disease or hydatidosis.
Polycystic Echinococcosis, primarily caused by Echinococcus vogeli, affects the liver causing enlargement and jaundice, as well as the abdomen cavity.
Treatment can include surgery, the PAIR technique involving the puncture, aspiration, injection, reaspiration of the cyst, or a course of anthelmintic drugs.
Avoid contact with animals, particularly dogs and ,farm animals.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water, especially before preparing food. If not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Always drink disinfected water and avoid eating raw or under cooked meats, vegetables, and fruits.
There is no preventive medication or vaccine against Echinococcosis.
Health risk description last reviewed: June 16, 2016
Country information last updated: July 4, 2016
- Coyle CM. Echinococcosis: Cystic and Alveolar Disease. In: Jong, E; Stevens, D, eds. Netter’s Infectious Diseases. New York: Saunders Elsevier; 2012: 491-501.
- Moro PL, Schantz PM. Cystic Echinococcosis. In: McGill, A; Ryan, E; Hill, D; Solomon, T, eds. Hunter's Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. New York: Saunders Elsevier; 2013: 908-912.
- Shantz PM, Kern P, Brunetti E. Echinococcosis. In: Guerrant, R; Walker D; Weller P, eds. Tropical Infectious Diseases. 3rd ed. New York: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: 824-838.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Echinococcosis
- World Health Organization: Echinococcosis