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General Practice 2023

Fasciola hepatica: what é, symptoms, transmission and treatment

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Fasciola hepatica: what é, symptoms, transmission and treatment
Fasciola hepatica: what é, symptoms, transmission and treatment

Fasciola hepatica is a parasite that can be found in the bile ducts of mammals, such as sheep, cattle and swine, for example, and that can cause fascioliasis or fasciolosis, which is a rare disease but can happen when consumes water or vegetables contaminated by the infective form of this parasite, resulting in fever, abdominal pain, swelling of the liver and obstruction of the bile ducts, in the most severe cases.

It is important that diagnosis and treatment be done quickly, as the parasite is not adapted to the human body, symptoms can be quite severe. Thus, in the suspicion of infection by Fasciola hepatica, it is recommended to consult the general practitioner for exams and treatment to be started, which usually involves the use of Albendazole, Bithionol and/or Dehydroemetine, according to medical advice.

Main symptoms

The symptoms of Fasciola hepatica infection may vary according to the stage and intensity of the infection. Thus, in the acute illness that occurs during the migration of the parasites, in the first 1 to 2 weeks after infection, symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain and swelling of the liver can be provoked.

When the parasites are lodged in the bile ducts, the infection becomes chronic, and inflammation of the liver may occur, causing signs and symptoms such as weight loss, recurrent fever, liver enlargement, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, anemia, dizziness and shortness of breath. In some cases, inflammation of the liver can lead to complications such as obstruction of the bile ducts or liver cirrhosis.

How is the diagnosis

The diagnosis of fasciolosis is initially made by the general practitioner based on the evaluation of the signs and symptoms presented by the person, and an assessment of life habits is also carried out, mainly related to the habit of eating raw vegetables.

After the initial evaluation, the doctor may recommend performing some tests to help confirm the infection, such as a parasitological examination of the stool, immunological blood tests and imaging tests, such as ultrasound or tomography of the abdomen with the objective of to verify the presence of the parasite within the biliary tree and to identify areas of inflammation and fibrosis.

How the transmission happens

Fasciola hepatica is transmitted to humans from the consumption of water or raw vegetables that contain infective forms of this parasite, because after the egg hatches in the water and develops in the snail, there is release of the infective forms that leave contaminated water and aquatic plants, including watercress.

Another possible form of infection, but rarer, is through consumption of raw liver meat from infected animals and contact with the snail or its secretions.

How the treatment is done

The treatment of fascioliasis is guided by the doctor, and includes the use of antiparasitic drugs such as Bithionol for 10 days on alternate days, Dehydroemetine for 10 days or Albendazole, although serious side effects associated with the use of this antiparasitic have been described..

If there are already complications in the liver, such as cirrhosis or obstruction of the ducts, it will be necessary to follow up with the hepatologist, who will indicate ways to prolong the he alth of the liver and, if necessary, indicate some type of surgery to correct the obstructions.

Prevention of Fasciola hepatica infection

To prevent infection by Fasciola hepatica, it is recommended to decontaminate raw vegetables well before eating, and always use clean, safe water for consumption. In addition, it is advised to avoid the consumption of raw meats.

It is also important that the caretakers of cattle and other animals are careful with food and perform the treatment, if they are infected, as a way to avoid the persistence of the worms in the environment.

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