Release and survival of Echinococcus eggs in different environments in Turkana, and their possible impact on the incidence of hydatidosis in man and livestock.
Wachira, T M
Macharia, C N L
Gathuma, J M
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In Turkana, Kenya, a prevalence of hydatidosis of nearly 10% has been recorded among the pastoralists yet their livestock have a much lower prevalence of the disease. The present study investigated the release from dogs and subsequent survival of Echinococcus eggs in Turkana huts, water-holes and in the semi-arid environment. The results were compared with the survival of eggs of Taenia hydatigena and T. saginata. The study was repeated under the cooler and moister conditons found in Maasailand where livestock have a greater incidence of hydatid disease than in Turkana but where the incidence in man is ten times lower. The average number of Echinococcus eggs per proglottid is 823. Nine percent of these remain in proglottids 15 minutes after release from a dog and the released eggs lose their viability in less than two, 48 and 300 hours in the sun, huts and water in Turkana respectively; the major influencing factor being temperature. The greater survival of eggs in the houses, coupled with the fact that dogs congregate for most of the day in the small houses facilitating a close man:dog contact, provide ideal conditions for the trasmission of the parasite to man. The hostile environmental conditions and lack of contact between dogs and livestock contributes to the lower infection rate in livestock. Conversely in Maasailand, Echinococcus eggs survive in the environment for longer than three weeks and in addition, dogs are used for herding. This partly explains the higher infection rate among Maasai livestock but the low human infection rate remains arcane and requires further study. The rapid mortality of the majority of Echinococcus eggs in Turkana suggests that control measures aimed at dog control and a decreased man:dog contact should have a profound effect on the incidence of the disease in an area intrinsically unsuitable for the parasites' survival.