Surveillance, prevention and control of echinococcosis

Surveillance for cystic echinococcosis in animals is difficult because the infection is asymptomatic in livestock and dogs, and is not recognized or prioritized by communities or local veterinary services.

Human cystic echinococcosis is diagnosed with imaging tools, such as ultrasound or computed tomography, and its laboratory confirmation relies on serological tests. The disease can be prevented by periodic deworming of dogs, improved hygiene in the slaughtering of livestock including proper destruction of infected offal, and public education campaigns. Vaccination of livestock with an E. granulosus recombinant antigen (EG95) offers encouraging prospects for prevention and control. Small-scale EG95 vaccine trials in sheep indicate high efficacy and safety with vaccinated lambs not becoming infected with E. granulosus. A programme combining vaccination of lambs, deworming of dogs and culling of older sheep could lead to elimination of human cystic echinococcosis in less than 10 years.

Diagnosis of alveolar echinococcosis is based on clinical findings and epidemiological data, imaging techniques, histopathology and/or nucleic acid detection, and serology.

Prevention and control of alveolar echinococcosis is particularly complex as the cycle involves wild animal species as both definitive and intermediate hosts. Regular deworming of domestic carnivores that have access to wild rodents should help to reduce the risk of infection to humans. Culling of foxes and unowned free-roaming dogs is applicable but appears to be highly inefficient. Deworming of wild and stray definitive hosts with anthelminthic baits resulted in significant reductions in alveolar echinococcosis prevalence in European and Japanese studies. Sustainability and cost–benefit effectiveness of such campaigns are however controversial.

Echinococcosis in the news

15 January 2014 | Geneva
Report of the WHO Informal Working Group on Echinococcosis on the occasion of the XXV World Congress of Echinococcosis held in Khartoum, Sudan, 25 November 2013

5 September 2012 | Geneva
Italy provides funding to support cystic echinococcosis projects in Morocco and Tunisia