Health topics

Echinococcosis

Animal herders in Mongolia © Ivan Tykhyi
 

Human echinococcosis is a parasitic disease caused by animal tapeworms of the genus Echinococcus. The two most important forms of the disease in humans are cystic echinococcosis (hydatidosis) and alveolar echinococcosis. Humans are infected through ingestion of parasite eggs in contaminated food, water or soil, or through direct contact with animal hosts.

In cystic echinococcosis, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting are commonly seen when cysts occur in the liver. If the lung is affected, clinical signs include chronic cough, chest pain and shortness of breath. Clinical signs of alveolar echinococcosis include weight loss, abdominal pain, general malaise and signs of hepatic failure. If left untreated, alveolar echinococcosis is progressive and fatal. Treatment for echinococcosis is often expensive and complicated, and may require extensive surgery and/or prolonged drug therapy.

In the Western Pacific Region, Australia, China and Mongolia are currently known to be endemic with human echinococcosis.