Echinococcus multilocularis infection in animals

Echinococcus multilocularis, echinococcosis, hosts, risk factors, diagnosis, surveillance, treatment
First published in the EFSA Journal
22 December 2015
2 December 2015
Scientific Opinion


The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was required to support the European Commission in preparing the review of Regulation (EU) No 1152/2011. In Europe, red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the main definitive host of the Echinococcus multilocularis (EM) lifecycle. There is no evidence that any other carnivore species can maintain the lifecycle in the absence of red fox, and this makes it to most relevant target species for surveillance. Movement of infected definitive hosts is an important introduction pathway. The knowledge on the geographical distribution of the environmental factors for the persistence of the lifecycle is scarce. In areas where no suitable autochthonous wild canid hosts and no highly suitable intermediate hosts are present, e.g. Malta, establishment of the EM cycle is considered close to impossible. Such countries do not need to carry out surveillance on domestic dogs to substantiate absence of EM in the relevant animal population. Reconsideration of some aspects of the current legislation regarding surveillance activities might be relevant; for example the identification of epidemiologically relevant units should be independent from political borders. Studies to improve the knowledge on epidemiological risk factors should be encouraged to enable risk-based sampling. Echinococcus notification should always be done at species level in order to discriminate between the more severe alveolar echinococcosis and the cystic echinococcosis. Praziquantel is the substance of choice for the treatment of dogs. However, the treatment window should be reconsidered to reduce the risk of re-infection: a general rule is to treat as close as possible to entry into a non-infected country. There is a lack of standardization of the diagnostic methods between laboratories. The diagnostic sensitivity of the tests should be established in accordance to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards for validation. For the time being, the diagnostic sensitivity can be set conservatively to 78%.

Panel members at the time of adoption

Andrew Butterworth, Anette Botner, Antonio Velarde, Bruno Garin-Bastuji, Christian Gortazar Schmidt, Christoph Winckler, Dominique Bicout, Hans H. Thulke, Hans Spoolder, Jan Arend Stegeman, Klaus Depner, Lisa Sihvonen, Margaret Good, Miguel Angel Miranda, Mohan Raj, Paolo Calistri, Preben Willeberg, Sandra Edwards, Simon More, Søren Saxmose Nielsen, Virginie Michel.
Panel on Animal Health and Welfare
ALPHA [at]
EFSA Journal 2015;13(12):4373
Question Number
On request from
European Commission