Echinococcosis is a parasitic disease caused by infection with tiny tapeworms of the genus Echinocococcus. Echinococcosis is classified as either cystic echinococcosis or alveolar echinococcosis. Cystic echinococcosis (CE) is very common in the southern part of Rio Grande do Sul State where sheep and cattle raising is the most important economical activity. Prevalence in intermediate hosts is well known due to reports in slaughterhouses while human reports are of discussed value. This is due to underreporting of cases and few epidemiological studies make it difficult to assess the situation of echinococcosis in the population.
Whereas cattle infection rate is more or less stable around 12% of the slaughter animals, in sheep there has been an increasing number in the last five years. Some efforts have been done to control the zoonosis but no effective results were obtained so far. Probably educational efforts to change human practices (feeding dogs with raw viscera), periodic treatment of dogs with praziquantel and joined actions with slaughterhouses could bring more attention to improve some control measures. Epidemiological data are very sparse and usually published in governamental bulletins. Human cases are not required to be reported, and surgeons do not habitually report cases to health officials. Alveolar echinococcosis (AE) is caused by infection with the larval stage of Echinococcus multilocularis.
AE is found across the globe and is especially prevalent in the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America. The adult tapeworm is normally found in foxes, coyotes, and dogs. Infection with the larval stages is transmitted to people through ingestion of food or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs. Two benzimidazolic drugs, mebendazole and albendazole, are the only anthelmintics effective against cystic echinococcosis. Albendazole and mebendazole are well tolerated but show different efficacy. However, a recent editorial on the subject concluded that “in light of existing data, radiotherapy cannot be advocated as an alternative to surgery in osseous echinococcosis where complete excision of the affected bone is possible, and thus potentially curative. In fact, radiotherapy has to be regarded as contraindicated in such cases.