Date: 08 Jan 2012

Current status of food-borne trematode infections

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Abstract

Food-borne trematodiases constitute an important group of the most neglected tropical diseases, not only in terms of research funding, but also in the public media. The Trematoda class contains a great number of species that infect humans and are recognized as the causative agents of disease. The biological cycle, geographical distribution, and epidemiology of most of these trematode species have been well characterized. Traditionally, these infections were limited, for the most part, in populations living in low-income countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, and were associated with poverty. However, the geographical limits and the population at risk are currently expanding and changing in relation to factors such as growing international markets, improved transportation systems, and demographic changes. The diagnosis of these diseases is based on parasitological techniques and only a limited number of drugs are currently available for treatment, most of which are unspecific. Therefore, in-depth studies are urgently needed in order to clarify the current epidemiology of these helminth infections and to identify new and specific targets for both effective diagnosis and treatment. In this review, we describe the biology, medical and epidemiological features, and current treatment and diagnostic tools of the main groups of flukes and the corresponding diseases.