Perspective on control options for Echinococcus multilocularis with particular reference to Japan

A. ITO a1c1 1 , T. ROMIG a2 1 and K. TAKAHASHI a3 1
a1 Department of Parasitology, Asahikawa Medical College, Asahikawa, Japan
a2 Section Infectiology, University Clinic, Ulm, Germany
a3 Division of Medical Zoology, Hokkaido Institute of Public Health, Sapporo, Japan

Article author query
ito a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
romig t   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
takahashi k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Following a brief introduction of recent advances in molecular and immunological technology for detection of persons and animals infected with Echinococcus multilocularis and an overview of the current situation of alveolar echinococcosis (AE) in Japan, perspectives on control options are discussed with reference to different epidemiological situations. AE is considered the most serious parasitic zoonosis in temperate and arctic regions of the northern hemisphere. The number of human cases differs drastically among regions. While high numbers of patients are apparently associated with high E. multilocularis prevalence in domestic dogs, e.g. in parts of Alaska and western China, the number of cases is moderate or low in areas where the parasite is mainly transmitted by wild canid species (e.g. in central Europe or temperate North America). However, the severity of the disease, the absence of curative treatment for most cases, the high cost of long-term chemotherapy and the anxiety caused for the population in highly endemic areas call for the development of preventive strategies even in regions where human AE is rare. Furthermore, in view of (1) drastically increasing numbers and infection rates of foxes involved in transmission of E. multilocularis, and (2) increasingly close contact between humans and foxes e.g. in Europe and Japan, there is considerable concern that AE incidences may in future increase in these regions. Control options depend on a variety of factors including the species of canid principally responsible for transmission and the socio-economic situation in the region. Where domestic dogs (stray or owned) are the principal hosts for E. multilocularis, control options can include those applicable to E. granulosus, i.e. reduction of the number of stray dogs, registration and regular preventive chemotherapy of owned dogs, and information campaigns for the population promoting low-risk behaviour for man and dogs. Where E. multilocularis is mainly transmitted by wild canids, the situation is far more difficult with preventive strategies still being in trial stage. Integrated control measures could include prevention information campaigns, restricting access of pet animals (dogs and cats) to rodents, chemotherapy of foxes on local or regional scales, and strategies to minimize contacts between people and foxes.

Key Words: Alveolar echinococcosis; Echinococcus multilocularis; epidemiology; control; Japan.

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1 All authors contributed equally to work for this paper.