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What is Liver Fluke?

Infection by the liver fluke parasite is a major health concern for millions of people, especially those living in the Far East, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.
Sheep liver fluke parasites typically infect herbivores, but can also infect humans.
Abdominal pain can be caused by flukes burrowing into a person's liver.
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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 July 2014
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Infection by the liver fluke parasite is a major health concern for millions of people, specifically those living in the Far East, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. In addition, because of the large amount of travel between countries, liver fluke infection is becoming more prominent in areas where the disease has not previously been found, such as in North America. There are several kinds of medical conditions that people infected by the parasite may experience, each dependent on the kind of parasite that has embedded itself into its host.

The sheep liver fluke, also called the Fasciola hepatica, and the Fasciola gigantica, are two kinds of parasites that typically infect herbivores – like sheep – but can also cause infection in humans. Usually, the eggs of the liver fluke are discharged in the stool of an infected animal. The eggs then embryonate in water, releasing miracidia, and then infect a snail as the intermediate host. Once inside the snail, the parasite transforms itself into metacercariae until it is ready to release itself from the snail and wait on plant life, such as watercress, for unsuspecting herbivores or humans to eat it. The animal, or the human, eats the plant and consequently, the parasite, and becomes infected.

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In humans, it takes the nearly three to four months for the metacercariae to develop into an adult liver fluke of the F. hepatica or the F. gigantica varieties. However, once they are fully grown, they can be 30 – 75 mm, respectively. The related medical condition is called fascioliasis. Fascioliasis is most common where cattle and sheep are raised and where humans consume watercress. Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, and eosinophilia; however, nearly 50% of those affected do not have any symptoms at all.

The other common parasites that cause liver fluke infection are the Opisthorchis viverrini, Clonorchis sinensis, and Opisthorchis felineus. They are endemic in nature in areas of Eastern Europe and East Asia. One 2001 study in Thailand has concluded that nearly 6 million individuals have Opisthorchiasis, an infection due to liver fluke. Most often, infection occurs where cyprinoid fish that is uncooked is common in the diet.

Because this variety of parasite is foodborne, they are very common. For example, if there is inadequate sanitation and poor infrastructure for raw sewage, humans can easily become infected with the C. sinensis and O. viverrini liver fluke parasites. The eggs of the parasites pass into the sources of water through feces where they attach to snails. When they release themselves from the snails as cercariae, they find the cyprinoid fish as hosts. There they attach to the fish skin, fins, and muscles and transform into metacercariae and when humans consume the raw fish, they become infected with the liver fluke and the related disease, Opisthorchiasis.

Again, most people who are affected by liver flukes or who have Opisthorchiasis do not have any symptoms. However, those who are infected can suffer from abdominal pain, fatigue, and enlarged gall bladder. In addition, the parasites O. viverrini and C. sinensis are considered carcinogens, and may cause cancer. Luckily, there are some pharmaceuticals that may help cure those affected by the liver fluke parasites.

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Discuss this Article

anon326477
Post 13

Can you see theme with the naked eye?

anon290702
Post 10

I was in Southeast Asia during the mid 60s and had no obvious symptoms, but over a year ago I knew I had a health problem.

In January, I passed a 2"x1/2"x-1/8" thing in my stool,which did not go down with the flush of the toilet. After questions in my head were going around and around, I got a stick and retrieved the thing from toilet. I looked at it with my magnifying glass and I realized it was not an undigested sort of food.

So I started to research books and the web. I visually identified it as a fluke parasite, which can survive in the host (humans) for up to 40-50 years, then the next symptom is the last: death. After four separate stool tests, two at the VA and two independent labs, the results all were negative for eggs. Any information would be appreciated about what or where I should go next.

anon267825
Post 9

I want to know how long the cyst can live on non-moist, non-water-touching plants, like once it gets too tall to be in the water.

anon243313
Post 8

I am currently in an Asian hospital with liver fluke that was not diagnosed for eight months, by which time my liver was damaged significantly. It is hard to catch and difficult to diagnose as it is so rare, the doctors I went to did not know to look for it until it was too late. Testing is via an Elisa blood test. Triclobendazole treats it but the damage to my immune system and liver are immense, may never heal and it is very painful.

If you suspect liver fluke, ask for a test. This was caused by watercress which I have only had twice in my life, both times from the same place.

I had multiple symptoms, pain, fatigue, nausea, anorexia, muscle aches and pains, fever and eventually rigors and severe shoulder and rib pain where the abscesses were rubbing against my ribs making it difficult to breathe.

anon146424
Post 6

The body produces antibodies to Liver fluke and these can be tested for in a blood or fecal sample. The eggs will only be excreted by an adult fluke.

It can take up to 12 weeks for the fluke to mature.

anon135327
Post 5

A friend recently had a scan done at a Rife Clinic where they test for various parasites, cancerous activity, etc by way of frequencies. I believe Quantum scans can also detect them. Hope that helps.

anon132357
Post 4

Was wondering what this liver fluke was. Very weird. Scary, and gross. I suffer from pinworms.

calabama71
Post 2

@cellmania: That's a good question. I know that liver fluke is detected in animals by the presence of eggs in their feces. I am not sure how it would be detected in humans.

I'll see if I can find some research and post it.

CellMania
Post 1

Interesting article. I noticed that it says in the article that most people do not have liver fluke symptoms. How is it detected?

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