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Causal Agent:

More than 30 species of trematodes (flukes) of the genus Paragonimus have been reported which infect animals and humans. Among the more than 10 species reported to infect humans, the most common is P. westermani, the oriental lung fluke.

Life Cycle:

Life cycle of Paragonimus westermani

The eggs are excreted unembryonated in the sputum, or alternately they are swallowed and passed with stool The number 1. In the external environment, the eggs become embryonated The number 2, and miracidia hatch and seek the first intermediate host, a snail, and penetrate its soft tissues The number 3. Miracidia go through several developmental stages inside the snail The number 4: sporocysts The number 4a, rediae The number 4b, with the latter giving rise to many cercariae The number 4c, which emerge from the snail. The cercariae invade the second intermediate host, a crustacean such as a crab or crayfish, where they encyst and become metacercariae. This is the infective stage for the mammalian host The number 5. Human infection with P. westermani occurs by eating inadequately cooked or pickled crab or crayfish that harbor metacercariae of the parasite The number 6. The metacercariae excyst in the duodenum The number 7, penetrate through the intestinal wall into the peritoneal cavity, then through the abdominal wall and diaphragm into the lungs, where they become encapsulated and develop into adults The number 8 (7.5 to 12 mm by 4 to 6 mm). The worms can also reach other organs and tissues, such as the brain and striated muscles, respectively. However, when this takes place completion of the life cycles is not achieved, because the eggs laid cannot exit these sites. Time from infection to oviposition is 65 to 90 days.

Infections may persist for 20 years in humans. Animals such as pigs, dogs, and a variety of feline species can also harbor P. westermani.

Life cycle image and information courtesy of DPDx.

 
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  • Page last reviewed: January 10, 2013
  • Page last updated: January 10, 2013
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