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DPDx is an education resource designed for health professionals and laboratory scientists. For an overview including prevention and control visit www.cdc.gov/parasites/echinococcosis/.

Echinococcosis

[Echinococcus granulosus] [Echinococcus multilocularis] [Echinococcus oligarthrus] [Echinococcus vogeli]

Treatment Information

Cystic Echinococcosis

In the past, surgery was the only treatment for cystic echinococcal cysts. Chemotherapy, cyst puncture, and PAIR (percutaneous aspiration, injection of chemicals and reaspiration) have been used to replace surgery as effective treatments for cystic echinococcosis and, for some cases, no treatment but a conservative "watch and wait" approach is best. Treatment indications vary with cyst characteristics, including cyst type, location, size, and complications. Surgery may be the best treatment for liver cysts that are secondarily infected or cysts located in the brain, lungs, or kidney. Liver cysts larger than 7.5 cm are likely to have biliary communication; surgery may be the best option for these cysts. Many abdominal cysts can be treated by injection of protoscolicidal chemical solutions into the cyst, followed by evacuation, prior to further manipulations and extirpation of cysts.

For some patients, chemotherapy with benzimidazoles is the preferred treatment. Patients with small cysts or multiple cysts in several organs can be treated successfully with albendazole. Approximately one third of patients treated with chemotherapy with benzimidazole drugs have been cured of the disease and even higher proportions, between 30-50%, have responded with significant regression of the cyst size and alleviation of symptoms. Both albendazole 10 to 15 mg/kg body weight per day (max 800 mg orally in two doses) in several 1-month courses with treatment-free intervals of 14 days and, as a second choice for treatment, mebendazole 40-50 mg/kg body weight per day continuously have been highly effective. Additionally, chemotherapy can be very effective when used in conjunction with surgery. Albendazole has been administered to patients prior to surgery for the intended purpose of facilitating the safe surgical manipulation of the cysts by inactivating protoscolices, altering the integrity of the cysts membranes, and reducing the turgidity of the cysts. A third treatment option, PAIR (percutaneous aspiration, injection of chemicals and reaspiration), has been shown to be effective. This option is indicated for patients with relapse after surgery, failure of chemotherapy alone, or who refuse surgery.

Drug* Adult Dosage Pediatric Dosage
Albendazole 400 mg orally twice a day for 1-6 months 10-15 mg/kg/day (max 800 mg) orally in two doses for 1-6 months

*Praziquantel may be useful preoperatively or in case of spillage of cyst contents during surgery (Bygott JM, Chiodini PL. Acta Tropica 2009; 111: 95-101).

Albendazole

Oral albendazole is available for human use in the United States.

Note on Treatment in Pregnancy

Albendazole is pregnancy category C. Data on the use of albendazole in pregnant women are limited, though the available evidence suggests no difference in congenital abnormalities in the children of women who were accidentally treated with albendazole during mass prevention campaigns compared with those who were not. In mass prevention campaigns for which the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that the benefit of treatment outweighs the risk, WHO allows use of albendazole in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy. However, the risk of treatment in pregnant women who are known to have an infection needs to be balanced with the risk of disease progression in the absence of treatment.

Pregnancy Category C: Either studies in animals have revealed adverse effects on the fetus (teratogenic or embryocidal, or other) and there are no controlled studies in women or studies in women and animals are not available. Drugs should be given only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Note on Treatment During Lactation

It is not known whether albendazole is excreted in human milk. Albendazole should be used with caution in breastfeeding women.

Note on Treatment in Pediatric Patients

The safety of albendazole in children less than 6 years old is not certain. Studies of the use of albendazole in children as young as one year old suggest that its use is safe. According to WHO guidelines for mass prevention campaigns, albendazole can be used in children as young as 1 year old. Many children less than 6 years old have been treated in these campaigns with albendazole, albeit at a reduced dose.

Mebendazole

Oral mebendazole is available for human use in the United States

Note on Treatment in Pregnancy

Mebendazole is in pregnancy category C. Data on the use of mebendazole in pregnant women are limited. The available evidence suggests no difference in congenital anomalies in the children of women who were treated with mebendazole during mass treatment programs compared with those who were not. In mass treatment programs for which the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that the benefit of treatment outweighs the risk, WHO allows use of mebendazole in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy. The risk of treatment in pregnant women who are known to have an infection needs to be balanced with the risk of disease progression in the absence of treatment.

Pregnancy Category C: Either studies in animals have revealed adverse effects on the fetus (teratogenic or embryocidal, or other) and there are no controlled studies in women or studies in women and animals are not available. Drugs should be given only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Note on Treatment During Lactation

It is not known whether mebendazole is excreted in breast milk. The WHO classifies mebendazole as compatible with breastfeeding and allows the use of mebendazole in lactating women.

Note on Treatment in Pediatric Patients

The safety of mebendazole in children has not been established. There is limited data in children age 2 years and younger. Mebendazole is listed as an intestinal antihelminthic medicine on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for Children, intended for the use of children up to 12 years of age.

Alveolar Echinococcosis

Alveolar echinococcosis requires chemotherapy with or without surgery; radical surgery is the preferred approach in suitable cases. Effective treatment involves benzimidazoles administered continuously for at least 2 years and patient monitoring for 10 years or more since recurrence is possible. This has inhibited progression of alveolar echinococcosis and reduced lesion size in approximately half of treated cases. Intermittent treatment with albendazole is not recommended.

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This information is provided as an informational resource for licensed health care providers as guidance only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional judgment.

 
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  • Page last reviewed November 29, 2013
  • Page last updated November 29, 2013
  • Content source: Global Health - Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria
  • Notice: Linking to a non-federal site does not constitute an endorsement by HHS, CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the site.
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