Liver Flukes

What are Liver Flukes?

Liver flukes are parasitic flatworms of the phylum Platyhelminthes.

Infections in humans usually occur after eating raw, contaminated or undercooked freshwater fish or watercress. People can get liver fluke infections when they swallow cysts containing immature flukes (or larvae). Once these cysts are ingested, larvae are released in the intestines. They travel from the intestines through the bile ducts to your liver where they develop into adults and produce eggs and grow. They can take up residence anywhere in the bile ducts, gallbladder, and liver.

How common are Liver fluke infections?

Liver fluke infections are more common in Europe, Africa, eastern Asia, and South America but they do occur in the United States. Your risk of infection increases if you travel to parts of the world where the parasites are more widespread.

What are the symptoms of liver fluke infections?

Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain,
  • Fever,
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,
  • Hives,
  • Fatigue or generalized malaise,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Decreased satiety (feeling full sooner than usual)
  • Weight loss,
  • Abdominal fullness,
  • Gallstone or bile stone formation,
  • Recurrent infections of the biliary system, and
  • Cholangiocarcinoma (or bile duct cancer) and Liver Cancer.

What are the complications of Liver Flukes?

Once larvae are in our bodies, they the cysts in the intestines and travel from the intestine into the bile duct. They go up the bile duct into the liver or gallbladder, develop into adults, and produce eggs. The adult parasite settles in the small bile ducts and can live there for 20 to 30 years. In your liver, gallbladder and bile ducts these flukes can cause long-lasting chronic inflammation, which can lead to serious problems.

How can Liver Flukes be prevented?

Only consuming thoroughly cooked freshwater fish and watercress. People who are travelling to areas with poor sanitation should completely avoid potentially contaminated food and water sources. No vaccine is available to prevent liver fluke infections.

What are the Treatment Options for Liver Flukes?

A drug called triclabendazole, a narrow-spectrum anthelminthic, is often used. Steroids and surgery are sometimes required for more serious infections and long-term complications.

What are the complications of Liver Flukes?

If left untreated Liver Flukes can lead to longstanding inflammation in the liver and biliary tract. This can progress to extensive scarring, fibrosis and even cancer. Early treatment is essential.

Schistosomiasis

What is Schistosomiasis?

Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by parasitic flatworms or trematodes called schistosomes.

People become infected when larvae released by freshwater snails penetrate the skin during contact with infested water.

What are the risk factors for Schistosomiasis?

Schistosomiasis is more common in tropical and subtropical areas with poor sanitation and inadequate access to safe drinking water. Travel to areas known to have be affected increases your risk.

What are the symptoms of Schistosomiasis infection?

Intestinal schistosomiasis may cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stool, or blood in the urine. Symptoms are based on the body’s reaction to the worms' eggs. Liver enlargement is common in advanced disease, and is frequently associated ascites, portal hypertension and enlarged spleen.

How is Schistosomiasis diagnosed?

Schistosomiasis is diagnosed by taking stool samples to detect for parasitic eggs and blood samples to look for antibodies.

What is the treatment for Schistosomiasis?

Schistosomiasis can usually be treated successfully with praziquantel, which kills the worms.

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