Published On: Wed, Sep 4th, 2013

WHO: 56 million people suffer from a foodborne trematodiases

At least 56 million people globally suffer from one or more foodborne trematodiases, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported today in it’s current Fact Sheet.

Foodborne trematodiases  are caused by trematode worms (“flukes”), of which the most common species affecting humans are Clonorchis, Opisthorchis, Fasciola and Paragonimus.

Paragonimus westermani Image/CDC

Paragonimus westermani Image/CDC

People become infected through the consumption of raw fish, crustaceans or vegetables that harbor the parasite larvae.

According to the WHO, of the 56 million people infected, 7000 die as a result of the parasitic infection.

Symptoms of foodborne trematodiases range from cholangiocarcinoma, a severe and fatal form of bile cancer (Clonorchis, Opisthorchis) to blockage of the bile ducts (Fasciola) to chronic cough with blood-stained sputum (Paragonimus).

Parasite burden highly affects severity of symptoms–Early and light infections often pass unnoticed, while heavy infections are more involved with painful symptoms. Chronic disease are linked to severe morbidity and are organ-specific.

Cases of foodborne trematodiases have been reported from over 70 countries worldwide; however South-East Asia and South America are the most affected areas. In these regions, infections with foodborne trematodes represent a significant public health problem.

Within the affected countries,  transmission is often restricted to limited areas and reflects behavioural and ecological patterns, such as people’s food habits, methods of food production and preparation, and the distribution of the intermediate hosts.

To reduce the risk of infection, the WHO says veterinary public health measures and food safety practices are needed.  To control morbidity, WHO recommends improved access to treatment using safe and effective anthelminthic medicines (drugs that expel the worms).

What is the WHO’s response to the foodborne trematodiases situation?

According to the updated Sep.2013 Fact Sheet, WHO’s work on foodborne trematodiases is part of an integrated approach to the control of neglected tropical diseases, and includes:

  • development of strategic directions and recommendations;
  • support for mapping in endemic countries;
  • support for pilot interventions and control programmes in endemic countries;
  • support for monitoring and evaluation of implemented activities; and
  • documentation of the burden of foodborne trematodiases and the impact of implemented interventions.

WHO is working to include foodborne trematodiases in its mainstream preventive chemotherapy strategy and ensure that their worst consequences (cancers of the bile duct and others) are fully prevented.

WHO has also negotiated an agreement with Novartis Pharma AG whereby this company will donate triclabendazole for the treatment of human fascioliasis and paragonimiasis. The medicines are shipped free of charge to ministries of health that apply for them. WHO invites all endemic countries to take advantage of this donation programme.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Study: Eight out of 10 people in Saravane district, Laos infected with Opisthorchis, hookworm - The Global Dispatch says:

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