EFSA has published a scientific opinion on Echinococcus multilocularis, a tapeworm that causes a disease known as echinococcosis in wild and domestic carnivores, such as foxes and dogs. People who consume food or water contaminated with E. multilocularis are at risk of infection, and the disease can be fatal.
The opinion is the result of several years of close cooperation with Member States and the European Commission. Among the key findings are:
- The red fox is the main host of E. multilocularis in Europe and monitoring activities should focus on this species.
- For reporting and monitoring purposes, epidemiological areas should be defined independently of political boundaries.
- Reporting should focus on E. multilocularis – which causes the most serious forms of the disease in humans – rather than reporting generically on Echinococcus
- Diagnostic methods to detect the disease in animals should be standardised across EU.
E. multilocularis is endemic in Eastern France, Southern Germany and parts of Switzerland and Austria, but infections have been recorded in other countries.
The EU adopted a regulation on preventive health measures for the control of E. multilocularis infections in dogs, in 2011. It required that those countries claiming to be free of the parasite – Finland, Ireland, Malta, the United Kingdom and, as of 2014, Norway– monitor and report on the occurrence of E.multilocularis. The regulation is due to be revised in 2016.
EFSA experts have supported these Member States in their monitoring and reporting activities and provided scientific advice to the Commission in view of the revision of the regulation. In particular, EFSA experts:
- Proposed a standardised system for monitoring and reporting on E. multilocularis. They also provided a tool to calculate a significant sample size and to assess the performance of surveys.
- Analysed the sampling strategy, the data collected and the detection methods used by Member States.
- Assessed the epidemiology of the disease, monitoring programmes in the EU, impact on public health, efficacy of drugs and effectiveness of treatments in animals and laboratory techniques to detect the disease.
- Carried out a literature review on the subject.
- Assessment of Echinococcus multilocularis surveillance reports submitted in 2015 in the context of Commission Regulation (EU) No 1152/2011
- Assessment of Echinococcus multilocularis surveillance data 2012–2013 submitted by Norway in the context of Commission Regulation (EU) No 1152/2011
- Assessment of Echinococcus multilocularis surveillance reports submitted in 2014 in the context of Commission Regulation (EU) No 1152/2011
- Assessment of Echinococcus multilocularis surveillance reports submitted 2013 in the context of Commission Regulation (EU) No 1152/2011
- A framework to substantiate absence of disease: the risk based estimate of system sensitivity tool (RiBESS) using data collated according to the EFSA Standard Sample Description - An example on Echinococcus multilocularis
- Scientific and technical assistance on Echinococcus multilocularis infection in animals