There are certain species of flukes that are capable of causing fluke infections of the liver. The fluke infections have been reported in various countries all over the world including Africa, Europe, South America and the Far East. The flukes capable of triggering infections of the liver include:
- Fasciola hepatica
- Clonorchis sinensis (typically infects cattle and sheep)
The life cycle of a fluke is considered complex. An individual can acquire fluke infections of the liver if they swallowed cysts containing immature flukes in undercooked, raw, salted, dried or picked freshwater or in watercress that has been contaminated by cattle or sheep dung.
Once the cysts are ingested, the larvae leave the cysts in the intestines and travel back up the intestine and enter the bile duct. From the bile duct, they go into the liver and oftentimes the gallbladder. Once there, they develop into adults and produce eggs.
These eggs are passed in the stool and ingested by snails. The infected snails let go immature flukes that are capable of swimming. Specifically called as cercariae, they are released by the infected snails to develop cysts in different types of freshwater fish or adhere to certain aquatic plants.
What are the indications of fluke infections?
In most instances, these fluke infections do not trigger any symptoms. If the infection is severe, the individual might have abdominal pain, fever and chills. In case the fluke obstructs enough of the bile passage within or outside the liver, the individual can develop yellowish skin and white part of the eyes (jaundice), diarrhea, itching and weight loss. Oftentimes, the flukes impair the liver, resulting to cirrhosis or fibrosis.
Years after, an infected individual might develop pancreatitis, gallstones or cancer of the biliary ducts.
How is it diagnosed
The doctor will diagnose fluke infections of the liver if they see eggs in the stool of the individual or in the contents of the intestines.
When dealing with fluke infections of the liver, a medication is used to eliminate the flukes from the body such as albendazole or praziquantel. In case the fluke obstructs the bile ducts, it would surely require surgical intervention.