Echinococcosis--an international public health challenge.
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This review aims to summarise some of the recent studies that have been undertaken on parasites of the genus Echinococcus and the diseases which they cause. Although the adult parasite, which inhabits the intestine of various carnivore species is not pathogenic, the larval or metacestode stages can be highly pathogenic, causing economic losses to livestock and various forms of echinococcosis in humans, some of which have a high fatality rate. There is growing evidence that there are at least 5 species of Echinococcus rather than the generally accepted 4 species. Within these species there are a number of genotypes or strains. This can have implications for surveillance and control. In some wealthy countries, cystic echinococcosis caused by Echinococcus granulosus has been successfully controlled or indeed eradicated. However, in most parts of the world it remains a serious threat to human health. In the former Soviet Union, the disease has rapidly increased in incidence after the end of communist administration. Human alveolar echinococcosis, caused by Echinococcus multilocularis, is more sporadic. However, in some Chinese communities there is a disturbingly high human prevalence and in Europe there has been an increase in the detection rate of E. multilocularis in animals in the last 10 years. Echinococcosis can present diagnostic challenges, particularly in the definitive host in areas of low endemicity. Much of the recent work relating to the use of coproantigen and PCR to overcome these difficulties is summarized. New ideas for controlling the parasite are becoming available and these include both the use of vaccination and the application of mathematical models to determine the most cost effective means of control. Effective measures that are affordable are vital if the parasite is to be controlled in poor countries.