General Information 

Echinococcus multilocularis is a wildlife associated tapeworm. The adult tapeworm is normally found in the small intestine of foxes and coyotes but can also be found in dogs and less commonly cats. Eggs are shed in the feces of an animal infected with the adult stage of the parasite. Infection with the intermediate stage is transmitted to people through ingestion of tapeworm eggs and can result in a disease called alveolar echinococcosis. 

Photo by: Steph Kelly 

Photo by: Jeremy Tozzi

Life cycle

 

Echinococcus multilocularis and dogs

 It is important to know that dogs can be both definitive hosts as well as accidental hosts. Both types of infection are very different:

 

 

Liver Infection 

  • alveolar echinococcosis

  • intermediate stage in liver

  • causes tumour-like growths in the liver

  • dogs must eat a large numbers of eggs (e.g. ingestion of coyote or fox feces)

  • no eggs are shed

  • detrimental to dog's health

Intestinal Infection

  • dog appears healthy

  • adult tapeworms in small intestine

  • dogs must eat an infected rodent 

  • shed eggs in their feces

  • can be prevented by monthly deworming treatment

Reportability 

Since 2012, six cases of alveolar echinococcosis (AE) have been diagnosed in domestic dogs residing in Ontario; five lived in areas around the western end of Lake Ontario. This is a concern since five of the six dogs had not left the province, suggesting they acquired the infection locally. Additionally, cases of AE have been diagnosed in three lemurs and one chipmunk in the same region (Turner et al. 2016; French et al 2018). As a result of these data and others, E. multilocularis was made reportable in all animal species in Ontario in January 2018 (R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 557). In July 2018, E. multilocularis infection in people in Ontario was designated a disease of public health significance (Ontario Regulation 135/18).

References: 

Ontario Regulation 135/18 (Designation of Diseases) under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.  (https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/180135)

Turner PV, Compo NR, Davidson S, McDowell R, Cai H, Gottstein B, Peregrine AS. Diagnoses of alveolar echinococcosis in Lemurs at an exotic animal sanctuary: implications for public health. 66th Annual Meeting of the The James Steele Conference on Diseases in Nature Transmissible to Man (DIN), 25th-27th May 2016, San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.

 

R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 557 (Communicable Diseases - General) under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.  (https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/900557)

 

Reviewed 09/09/19

© 2018-2019 by Dr. Jonathon D. Kotwa | PhD | Department of Pathobiology, University of Guelph.

The content of this website is intended to offer general information about Echinococcus multilocularis in Ontario. It is not intended to substitute the knowledge provided by health-care professionals. None of the information contained in this web site is intended to be used for decisions on diagnosis or treatment.