In Parasitic infections, Parasitology

Zoonoses are infectious diseases which can be transmitted from animals to humans. More than 200 of these diseases are known. On World Zoonoses Day on July 6 we are presenting the most common pathogens and show you how you can protect yourself against infection.

Infectious diseases can be due to various causes. In many cases they are caused by pathogens which are transmitted from animals to humans. Such diseases are referred to as zoonoses. The best known of these are bird flu, swine flu, rabies, borreliosis, salmonellosis, and malaria. The diseases are as varied as the methods of transmission: cuddling pets or cleaning cages or cat litters are just two of the possible sources. Often, infections are caused by contaminated food, or they are transmitted via vectors such as mosquitoes or tics.

Although many zoonoses produce practically no symptoms in healthy people, other diseases may prove to be fatal. A study in 2012 identified 13 zoonoses which are responsible for 2.2 million fatalities every year. This does not only affect developing countries: In Europe and the USA there are also “hotspots” in which new zoonoses appear, some of which are highly infectious or resistant.

In addition to bacteria, viruses, and fungi, parasites are frequently the cause of zoonoses: worms (helminths), protozoa, or arthropods (arachnids). The following table provides an overview of the main parasitic zoonoses, the pathogens, and the transmission routes:

Zoonosis
Pathogen
Transmission

Amoebiasis/amoebic dysentery Amoeba (Entamoeba histolytica) Consumption of contaminated water or unwashed fruit and vegetables Details
Echinococcosis/hydatid disease Dog tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus), fox tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis) Close contact with infected animals Details
Giardiasis Protozoa of the giardia species (Giardia lamblia) Consumption of contaminated water or unwashed fruit and vegetables Details
Cryptosporidiosis Protozoa of the cryptosporidium species (Cryptosporidium parvum) Consumption of contaminated water or unwashed fruit and vegetables Details
Leishmaniasis Protozoa of the leishmania species (Leishmania) Bites by sand flies Details
Toxocariasis Nematodes (Toxocara canis) Contact with the excrement of infected animals Details
Trichinosis Threadworms (Trichinella spiralis) Consumption of raw or undercooked pork Details
Cysticercosis Pork tapeworm (Taenia solium) Consumption of raw or undercooked pork Details

Due to the wide variety of causes and transmission routes there are hardly any specific measures to prevent zoonosis. Furthermore, there are no prophylactic vaccines against most of the pathogens. Because of this, hygiene measures play a decisive role in prevention: Washing hands regularly, thorough washing fruit and vegetables, and adequate cooking meat reduce the risk of infection.

Would you like to learn more about zoonoses and parasite diagnostics? We look forward to hearing from you!

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