Journal of Parasitic Diseases: Diagnosis and Therapy

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Commentary - Journal of Parasitic Diseases: Diagnosis and Therapy (2023) Volume 8, Issue 5

Echinococcosis: Understanding a silent threat

Nazmiye Torgerson*

Department of Parasitology, School of Medicine, Ege University, Bornova Izmir, Turkey

Corresponding Author:
Nazmiye Torgerson
Department of Parasitology,
School of Medicine Ege University,
Bornova Izmir,

Received: 13-Jul-2023, Manuscript No. AAPDDT-23-106215; Editor assigned: 17-Jul-2023, AAPDDT-23-106215 (PQ); Reviewed: 01-Aug-2023, QC No. AAPDDT-23-106215; Revised: 14-Sep-2023, Manuscript No. AAPDDT-23-106215 (R); Published: 22-Sep-2023, DOI:10.35841/2591-7846.8.5.168

Citation: Torgerson N. Echinococcosis: Understanding a silent threat. J Parasit Dis Diagn Ther. 2023;8(5):1-2.


Echinococcosis, also known as hydatid disease, is a zoonotic parasitic infection caused by the larvae of the Echinococcus tapeworm. This neglected tropical disease poses a significant public health threat in certain regions worldwide. Echinococcosis primarily affects the liver and lungs but can also involve other organs, leading to serious complications. This article provides an overview of echinococcosis, its transmission, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures.

Transmission and life cycle

Echinococcosis is maintained in a complex life cycle involving two mammalian hosts: The definitive host, usually dogs or other canids and intermediate hosts, typically sheep, cattle, or humans. The life cycle begins when the definitive host ingests the eggs shed in the feces of an infected animal. Inside the host's intestine, the eggs hatch, releasing oncospheres that penetrate the intestinal wall and migrate to various organs. In intermediate hosts, such as humans, cysts form as a result of the larvae developing in tissues, particularly the liver and lungs. The life cycle is completed when a definitive host ingests the cyst containing organs, and the adult tapeworm develops in the intestine [1].

Clinical manifestations

The clinical manifestations of echinococcosis depend on the location, size and number of cysts. In the early stages, the infection may be asymptomatic, leading to delayed diagnosis. As the cysts grow, they can exert pressure on surrounding organs, causing symptoms such as abdominal pain, hepatomegaly (enlarged liver), cough, dyspnea (shortness of breath) and chest pain. Rupture of cysts can lead to anaphylactic reactions or the spread of daughter cysts to other organs, resulting in potentially life-threatening complications [2].


Diagnosing echinococcosis can be challenging due to its nonspecific clinical manifestations and the need for specialized tests. Imaging techniques, including ultrasound, Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), play a crucial role in detecting and characterizing cysts. Serological tests, such as Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) and immune blotting, detect specific antibodies against Echinococcus antigens and support the diagnosis. Confirmation often requires histopathological examination of surgically removed cysts [3].


The treatment of echinococcosis depends on several factors, including the location, size, and stage of the cysts, as well as the patient's overall health. The primary treatment options include surgery, drug therapy, or a combination of both.

Surgery: Surgical removal of the cysts, known as cystectomy, is the preferred approach when feasible. The goal is to completely remove the cysts while minimizing the risk of rupture and dissemination.

Drug therapy: Benzimidazole compounds, such as albendazole and mebendazole, are the mainstay of drug therapy. These drugs inhibit the growth of cysts, reduce the viability of the larvae, and can be used as an adjunct to surgery or as the primary treatment for inoperable cases [4].

Prevention and control

Preventing echinococcosis requires a comprehensive one health approach, addressing both animal and human health aspects.

Health education: Raising awareness among communities, healthcare professionals, and veterinary workers about the risks of echinococcosis, the importance of proper hygiene and the need for regular deworming of domestic animals.

Veterinary interventions: Implementing programs for deworming and vaccinating domestic animals, especially dogs, to reduce the contamination of the environment with Echinococcus eggs.

Food safety measures: Promoting safe food practices, such as cooking meat thoroughly and proper disposal of offal, to prevent human ingestion of cysts.

Surveillance and control: Establishing surveillance systems to monitor the prevalence of echinococcosis in both animals and humans. This includes early detection, diagnosis and prompt treatment of infected individuals.


Echinococcosis remains a significant global health concern, particularly in regions where humans and animals closely interact. The complex life cycle of the Echinococcus tapeworm poses challenges in preventing and controlling the disease.


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