Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 63–74 | Cite as

Cercarial Dermatitis, a Neglected Allergic Disease

  • Libuše Kolářová
  • Petr Horák
  • Karl Skírnisson
  • Helena Marečková
  • Michael Doenhoff


Cercarial dermatitis (swimmer's itch) is a common non-communicable water-borne disease. It is caused by penetration of the skin by larvae (cercariae) of schistosomatid flukes and develops as a maculopapular skin eruption after repeated contacts with the parasites. The number of outbreaks of the disease is increasing, and cercarial dermatitis can therefore be considered as an emerging problem. Swimmer's itch is mostly associated with larvae of the bird schistosomes of Trichobilharzia spp. Recent results have shown that mammalian infections (including man) manifest themselves as an allergic reaction which is able to trap and eliminate parasites in the skin. Studies on mammals experimentally infected by bird schistosome cercariae revealed, however, that during primary infection, parasites are able to escape from the skin to the lungs or central nervous system. This review covers basic information on detection of the infectious agents in the field and the clinical course of the disease, including other pathologies which may develop after infection by cercariae, and diagnosis of the disease.


Cercariae Cercarial dermatitis Schistosomes Trichobilharzia 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Libuše Kolářová
    • 1
  • Petr Horák
    • 2
  • Karl Skírnisson
    • 3
  • Helena Marečková
    • 1
  • Michael Doenhoff
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Immunology and Microbiology, First Faculty of MedicineCharles University in Prague and General University Hospital in PraguePrague 2Czech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Parasitology, Faculty of ScienceCharles University in PraguePrague 2Czech Republic
  3. 3.Laboratory of Parasitology, Institute for Experimental PathologyUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland
  4. 4.School of BiologyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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