Echinococcus multilocularis: a political zoonosis


  • Ian Wright BVMS Bsc Msc MRCVS

    1. Veterinary Surgeon at Withy Grove Veterinary Surgery, Co-owner of the Mount Veterinary Practice, Independent Parasitologist and member of ESCCAP UK
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Echinococcus multilocularis is a tapeworm of canids and is ranked among the world's most lethal zoonoses. Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) provide a natural reservoir of infection but the urbanisation of the red fox and it's increase in numbers across Europe have brought E. multilocularis into increased contact with domestic dogs that may also harbor infection. The UK remains free of E. multilocularis but the lack of adverse clinical signs and difficulty of diagnosing the parasite in canids without post-mortem means that introduction of the parasite from pets travelling abroad is a constant threat. The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) includes a compulsory requirement for praziquantel treatment for dogs 1–5 days before entry into the UK to prevent E. multilocularis being introduced. This article discusses the importance of maintaining this requirement as well as reviewing the life cycle, epidemiology, diagnostic tests and treatment of the parasite.