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A historical view of alveolar echinococcosis, 160 years after the discovery of the first case in humans: part 1. What have we learnt on the distribution of the disease and on its parasitic agent?

Abstract : Since the first 2 cases observed in Southern Germany and the correct identification of a parasite at the origin of the disease by the famous scientist Rudolf Virchow in 1855, the borders of the endemic area of alveolar echinococcosis (AE) have never stopped to expand. The parasite was successively recognized in Switzerland, then in Russia, Austria and France which were long considered as the only endemic areas for the disease. Cases were disclosed in Turkey in 1939; then much attention was paid to Alaska and to Hokkaido, in Japan. The situation totally changed in 1991 after the recognition of the Chinese endemic areas by the international community of scientists. The world map was completed in the beginning of the 21st century by the identification of AE in most of the countries of central/eastern Europe and Baltic States, and by the recognition of cases in central Asia. Up to now, the disease has however never been reported in the South hemisphere and in the United Kingdom. In the mid-1950s, demonstration by Rausch and Schiller in Alaska, and by Vogel in Germany, of the distinction between 2 parasite species responsible respectively for cystic echinococcosis ("hydatid disease") and AE put an end to the long-lasting debate between the "dualists", who believed in that theory which eventually proved to be true, and the "unicists", who believed in a single species responsible for both diseases. At the end of the 20th century, molecular biology fully confirmed the "dualist" theory while adding several new species to the initially described E. granulosus; within the past decade, it also confirmed that little variation existed within E. multilocularis species, and that AE-looking infection in some intermediate animal hosts on the Tibetan plateau was indeed due to a new species, distinct from E. multilocularis, named E. shiquicus. Since the 1970s, the unique ecological interactions between the landscape, the hosts, and E. multilocularis have progressively been delineated. The important role of the rodent/lagomorph reservoir size for the maintenance of the parasite cycle has been recognized within the last 2 decades of the 20th century. And the discovery of a close relationship between high densities of small mammals and particularities in land use by agriculture/forestry has stressed the responsibility of political/economic decisions on the contamination pressure. Urbanization of foxes in Europe and Japan and the major role of dogs in China represent the new deals at the beginning of the 21st century regarding definitive hosts and prevention measures.
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Submitted on : Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 6:13:50 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 13, 2022 - 12:04:10 PM

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Dominique Angèle Vuitton, Qian Wang, Hongxia Zhou, Francis Raoul, Jenny Knapp, et al.. A historical view of alveolar echinococcosis, 160 years after the discovery of the first case in humans: part 1. What have we learnt on the distribution of the disease and on its parasitic agent?. Chinese Medical Journal, Chinese Medical Association, 2011, 124 (18), pp.2943-53. ⟨10.3760/cma.j.issn.0366-6999.2011.18.027⟩. ⟨hal-00638078⟩

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