Echinococcus is a cestode, or tapeworm, whose length ranges from 2-7mm.
This parasite is transmitted to humans through the ingestion of echinococcus eggs. These eggs are found in the feces of the definitive host, dogs. Thus, proper hygiene helps prevent the spread of Echinococcus granulosus.
Once infected, this infection causes slow-growing cysts to form in the liver (rarely, the lungs, spleen, and heart). These are called hydatid cysts and are filled with clear, fluid-containing antigens. Depending on their size, these cysts can be asymptomatic or present as an uncomfortable mass.
Due to cyst growth in cases of Echinococcus granulosus, the body can often react with fibrosis and necrosis in the infected tissue.
Caregivers should be cautioned when examining and treating this infection; if cysts rupture while in the body, from surgical extraction or bodily trauma, the patient will go into anaphylactic shock and develop high fever, pruritis, edema, and breathing difficulties.
Albendazole is the most common pharmacologic treatment used against echinococcus infection. It is typically combined with open surgical removal of the cysts.
If the cysts are in an accessible location, open surgical removal of cysts is used to treat patients infected with echinococcus.
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