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Infection. 2012 Apr;40(2):139-52. doi: 10.1007/s15010-011-0205-6. Epub 2011 Nov 11.

Serological diagnosis of echinococcosis: the diagnostic potential of native antigens.

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  • 1Institute of Parasitology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.



Human alveolar (AE) and cystic echinococcosis (CE) caused by the metacestode stages of Echinococcus multilocularis and E. granulosus, respectively, lack pathognomonic clinical signs. Diagnosis therefore relies on the results of imaging and serological studies. The primary goal of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of several easy-to-produce crude or partially purified E. granulosus and E. multilocularis metacestode-derived antigens as tools for the serological diagnosis and differential diagnosis of patients suspicious for AE or CE.


The sera of 51 treatment-naïve AE and 32 CE patients, 98 Swiss blood donors and 38 patients who were initially suspicious for echinococcosis but suffering from various other liver diseases (e.g., liver neoplasia, etc.) were analysed.


According to the results of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), metacestode-derived antigens of E. granulosus had sensitivities varying from 81 to 97% and >99.9% for the diagnosis of CE and AE, respectively. Antigens derived from E. multilocularis metacestodes had sensitivities ranging from 84 to 91% and >99.9% for the diagnosis of CE and AE, respectively. Specificities ranged from 92 to >99.9%. Post-test probabilities for the differential diagnosis of AE from liver neoplasias, CE from cystic liver lesions, and screening for AE in Switzerland were around 95, 86 and 2.2%, respectively. Cross-reactions with antibodies in sera of patients with other parasitic affections (fasciolosis, schistosomosis, amebosis, cysticercosis, and filarioses) did occur at variable frequencies, but could be eliminated through the use of confirmatory testing.


Different metacestode-derived antigens of E. granulosus and E. multilocularis are valuable, widely accessible, and cost-efficient tools for the serological diagnosis of echinococcosis. However, confirmatory testing is necessary, due to the lack of species specificity and the occurrence of cross-reactions to other helminthic diseases.

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