Echinococcus multilocularis is a small (4-6mm) tapeworm that can cause serious health issues in both humans and animals due to damage primarily to the liver. The resultant disease is termed alveolar echinococcosis, and is potentially fatal if left untreated.
Prior to 2012, E. multilocularis had never been diagnosed in Ontario. Since then there have been six cases of alveolar echinococcosis reported in dogs, three cases in non-human primates, and one case in a chipmunk. Five of the six dogs and all non-human primates had not travelled outside southern Ontario, which suggests they acquired the infection locally.
What is being done?
Researchers from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph are currently conducting research to determine where E. multilocularis occurs in Ontario wildlife. This study will provide baseline knowledge of the presence of this zoonotic (transferred between animals to humans) parasite in Ontario. While there is currently no evidence of disease in humans in Ontario, the presence of E. multilocularis raises the potential for serious zoonotic infection of humans.
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