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Fluke Infections of the Intestines

By Richard D. Pearson, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine

Certain species of flukes cause infections of the intestine.

Flukes that infect the intestines include

  • Fasciolopsis buski, which causes fasciolopsiasis

  • Heterophyes heterophyes, which causes heterophyiasis

Intestinal fluke infections usually occur in the Far and Middle East or Egypt.

The life cycle of flukes is complex. People get intestinal fluke infections when they eat aquatic plants (such as water chestnuts) or raw, undercooked, or salted freshwater fish that contain cysts that contain fluke larvae.

Usually, intestinal fluke infections cause no or mild symptoms. But if the infection is severe, people may have abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fever. Sometimes the flukes prevent foods from being absorbed normally (called malabsorption) or block the intestine (called intestinal obstruction).

Doctors diagnose intestinal fluke infections when they see eggs or sometimes adult flukes in a person's stool (feces).

These fluke infections are treated with praziquantel.

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