Date of this Version
Emerging Infectious Diseases (June 2012) 18(6): 1,010-1,012
To the Editor: In 2009, an alveolar hydatid cyst, the intermediate stage of the cestode Echinococcus multilocularis, was detected in the liver of a dog from Quesnel, British Columbia (BC), Canada, 600 km west of the nearest known record of this parasite in central North America. Alveolar hydatid cysts normally occur in rodent intermediate hosts. However, humans can serve as aberrant intermediate hosts; cysts generally originate in the liver and, in about one third of cases, metastasize throughout the body. Detection of the larval stage of this pathogen in an unusual host in a new geographic region required application of multiple molecular epidemiologic techniques to determine if this was range expansion of a native strain or introduction of a new strain of veterinary and public health concern.
The possible establishment of a European strain in North American wildlife, with spillover into domestic dogs, may have implications for public health and require increased vigilance by medical and veterinary personnel in the newly endemic region. Compared with native North American strains, European strains of E. multilocularis appear to have greater potential to cause alveolar hydatid disease (AHD) in humans. These strains are emerging worldwide (increasing in both prevalence and distribution) as a result of changes in landscape, climate, and wildlife–human interfaces. In Europe, human AHD can be fatal (definite or probable cause of death in 23.5% of 119 recent cases) and has low cure rates (5% of 408 recent cases). As of 2000, in Europe and Asia, the estimated cost per case of AHD was US $100,000–$300,000. Therefore, better understanding of the distribution, genetic diversity, and pathogenicity of strains of E. multilocularis is needed to assess risks and mitigate costs for public and veterinary health, as well as to provide evidence for the regulation and screening of imported domestic animals and translocated wildlife.