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Epidemiology and control of echinococcosis

Pedro L Moro, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Peter F Weller, MD, MACP
Deputy Editor
Elinor L Baron, MD, DTMH


Echinococcal disease is caused by infection with the tapeworm Echinococcus. Four species of Echinococcus cause infection in humans. E. granulosus and E. multilocularis are the most common, causing cystic echinococcosis (CE) and alveolar echinococcosis (AE), respectively. The two other species, E. vogeli and E. oligarthrus, cause polycystic echinococcosis and are less frequently associated with human infection (table 1) [1]. Two relatively new species have been identified: Echinococcus shiquicus in small mammals from the Tibetan plateau and Echinococcus felidis in African lions [2,3]; their transmission potential to humans is not known.

The geographic distribution and animal host species vary by Echinococcus species, and mixed infections involving more than one species have been reported. In addition, different strains within an Echinococcus species may have variable morphology, genetic characteristics, infectivity to humans, and pathogenicity [2,3].

The epidemiology and control of the echinococcal species will be reviewed here. The clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of cystic and alveolar echinococcosis are discussed separately. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of echinococcosis" and "Treatment of echinococcosis".)


Echinococcus granulosus — E. granulosus causes cystic echinococcosis (CE).

Life cycle — The life cycle of echinococcus includes a definitive host (usually dogs or related species) and an intermediate host (such as sheep, goats, camels, cervids, horses, cattle, and swine) (figure 1). Humans are incidental hosts; they do not play a role in the transmission cycle. E. granulosus adult tapeworms are usually found in dogs or other canids.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 25, 2017.
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