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Sparganosis

[Spirometra mansoni] [Spirometra ranarum] [Spirometra mansonoides] [Spirometra erinacei] ['Sparganum proliferum']

Proliferating spargana in groin tissue of a patient from Paraguay, stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E).

Proliferating sparganum in groin tissue of a patient from Paraguay, stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E).


Sparganum removed from the chest wall of a patient. The worm measured about 70 mm long. Images from a specimen courtesy of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Sparganum removed from the chest wall of a patient. The worm measured about 70 mm long. Images from a specimen courtesy of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Causal Agents

Cestodes in the genus Spirometra, including S. mansoni, S. ranarum, S. mansonoides and S. erinacei, as well as the aberrant Sparganum proliferum.


Life Cycle

Life cycle of Sparganosis

Adult members of the genus Spirometra live in the intestines of dogs and cats The number 7. Eggs are shed in feces The number 1 and embryonate in the environment The number 2. Eggs hatch in water and release coracidia The number 3, which are ingested by copepods. The coracidia develop into procercoid larvae in the copepod intermediate host The number 4. Second intermediate hosts, including fish, reptiles and amphibians, ingest infected copepods and acquire procercoid larvae. The procercoid larvae develop into plerocercoid larvae in the second intermediate host The number 5. The cycle is completed when a predator (dog or cat) eats an infected second intermediate host The number 6. Humans cannot serve as definitive hosts for Spirometra spp., but serve as paratenic or second intermediate hosts The number 8. and develop sparganosis. Humans acquire sparganosis by either drinking water contaminated with infected copepods or consuming the flesh of an under-cooked second intermediate or paratenic host. Spargana can live up to 20 years in the human host.

Geographic Distribution

The genus Spirometra occurs worldwide in distribution, although most human cases of sparganosis are recorded from southeast Asian countries. Sparganosis is endemic in animals throughout North America, although human cases from this area are rare.

Clinical Presentation

Migrating spargana cause various symptoms depending on the final location in the host. Spargana may locate anywhere, including subcutaneous tissue, breast, orbit, urinary tract, pleural cavity, lungs, abdominal viscera and the central nervous system. The migration in subcutaneous tissues is usually painless, but when spargana settle in the brain or spine a variety of neurological symptoms may occur, including weakness, headache, seizure, and abnormal skin sensations, such as numbness or tingling. If the inner ear is involved, the patient may experience vertigo or deafness. Occasionally, Sparganum proliferum can cause proliferative lesions in the infected tissue, with multiple plerocercoids present in a single site.

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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
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