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Diphyllobothriasis: update on human cases, foci, patterns and sources of human infections and future considerations.

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Department of Zoology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.


Diphylobothriasis is a well documented disease of humans. On a world scale new infections are reported regularly, especially from Russia and parts of Japan. Globally, new species have been discovered and the etiology of the disease may be changing. Human infections appear to be in decline but it is not clear if the sources of infection are also in decline or if public health awareness has improved. In North America there has been a decline in human cases while in South America an increase in reports from fish, especially salmonids suggests high levels in these fish species. The history of human infections of Diphyllobothrium latum is primarily associated with the consumption of the northern circumpolar distributed pike and percids and is often considered a parasite of humans only. Indeed some researchers believe that D. latum was introduced to North America by northern European immigrants. The more benign human infections of D. dendriticum appears to be primarily associated with salmonids and coregonid fishes and fish eating birds. Although the early cases of diphyllobothriasis in the 1930s in North America came from fish originating in Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba, there was general belief that it was declining in fish populations and therefore of little significance to humans in the area. However, high levels of a plerocercoid in the flesh of walleyes and pike led to rejection of commercially harvested walleye and pike in Manitoba and northern Ontario, Canada, and a financial loss to Aboriginal fishers. D. latum is widely distributed in fishes of Manitoba and is infective to humans where it is not pathogenic and has a life span up to 4.5 years. The distribution and potential infection routes has not changed in a century and is still well established in natural hosts in the boreal regions of North America. Evidence is building for an old pre-European presence in North America, involving the Beringian land bridge and later involvement of susceptible hosts (northern European immigrants).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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