DPDx is an education resource designed for health professionals and laboratory scientists. For an overview including prevention and control visit www.cdc.gov/parasites/fascioliasis/.
[Fasciola gigantica] [Fasciola hepatica]
The trematodes Fasciola hepatica (the sheep liver fluke) and Fasciola gigantica, parasites of herbivores that can infect humans accidentally.
Immature eggs are discharged in the biliary ducts and in the stool . Eggs become embryonated in water , eggs release miracidia , which invade a suitable snail intermediate host , including the genera Galba, Fossaria and Pseudosuccinea. In the snail the parasites undergo several developmental stages (sporocysts , rediae , and cercariae ). The cercariae are released from the snail and encyst as metacercariae on aquatic vegetation or other surfaces. Mammals acquire the infection by eating vegetation containing metacercariae. Humans can become infected by ingesting metacercariae-containing freshwater plants, especially watercress . After ingestion, the metacercariae excyst in the duodenum and migrate through the intestinal wall, the peritoneal cavity, and the liver parenchyma into the biliary ducts, where they develop into adults . In humans, maturation from metacercariae into adult flukes takes approximately 3 to 4 months. The adult flukes (Fasciola hepatica: up to 30 mm by 13 mm; F. gigantica: up to 75 mm) reside in the large biliary ducts of the mammalian host. Fasciola hepatica infect various animal species, mostly herbivores.
Fascioliasis occurs worldwide. Human infections with F. hepatica are found in areas where sheep and cattle are raised, and where humans consume raw watercress, including Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Infections with F. gigantica have been reported, more rarely, in Asia, Africa, and Hawaii.
During the acute phase (caused by the migration of the immature fluke through the hepatic parenchyma), manifestations include abdominal pain, hepatomegaly, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, urticaria and eosinophilia, and can last for months. In the chronic phase (caused by the adult fluke within the bile ducts), the symptoms are more discrete and reflect intermittent biliary obstruction and inflammation. Occasionally, ectopic locations of infection (such as intestinal wall, lungs, subcutaneous tissue, and pharyngeal mucosa) can occur.