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Int J Parasitol. 1994 Sep;24(6):833-43.

Parasite-associated morbidity: liver fluke infection and bile duct cancer in northeast Thailand.

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Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University, Thailand.


Infection with the liver fluke, Opisthorchis viverrini, remains a major public health problem in Northeast Thailand, where approximately one-third of the population is infected. The northeast region is largely populated by Laos-descendent Thais who enjoy eating raw fish, which harbour the infective stage of the fluke. The parasite has maintained its presence in the population despite the widespread use of praziquantel and dissemination of health education material throughout the region by vigorous government-sponsored programs in recent years. The most severe consequence of liver fluke infection is cholangiocarcinoma, i.e. cancer of the bile duct epithelium. Although mortality due to the parasites alone appears to be uncommon, cholangiocarcinoma arising as a result of infection is one of the leading causes of death in the region. This paper reviews the pathogenesis of infection and the geographic, hospital-based and community studies which demonstrate the close relationship between infection and cancer. In addition, data from the Cancer Registry of Khon Kaen, Northeast Thailand and population-based studies using ultrasonography to visualize early tumours which illuminate the very high frequency of the cancer among heavily infected individuals and communities are discussed. Finally, the paper will close with a brief commentary on the prospects for control of the parasite and its likely impact on the frequency of cancer given the current epidemiological situation of liver fluke infection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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