Trichobilharzia species in the UK : a cause for concern?

Kirk, Ruth, Enabulele, Elisha, Lawton, Scott and Walker, Tony (2016) Trichobilharzia species in the UK : a cause for concern? In: EMOP XII : 12th European Multicolloquium of Parasitology; 20 - 24 Jul 2016, Turku, Finland. (Unpublished)


The popularity of recreational water activities such as triathlons and natural swimming has increased worldwide. However, the use of water for leisure poses a number of health risks from viral, bacterial and parasitic infections. Protists are considered to be the most important parasitic causes of water related diseases, but recent evidence suggests that bird schistosomes of the genus Trichobilharzia should also be considered as risks to public health. Trichobilharzia species are widely reported agents of human cercarial dermatitis (swimmer's itch), which is currently regarded as a re-emerging disease in Europe. Repeated exposure to cercariae emerging from aquatic snails elicits an inflammatory response in the skin which can lead to further symptoms such as fever. Although some cases of cercarial dermatitis have been reported in the UK, little is known about the distribution and diversity of schistosomatid blood flukes that cause the disease or their snail intermediate hosts. Recent studies by our research group using a range of molecular markers have confirmed the occurrence of two agents of cercarial dermatitis in the UK. Trichobilharzia franki was identified from Radix auricularia in Hampshire, Southern England and from R. balthica in Wester Ross, Western Scotland. Trichobilharzia szidati was identified from Lymnaea stagnalis in Norfolk. The implications of these findings are discussed, particularly in relation to climate change and requirements for further monitoring, economic impacts and improved public awareness of cercarial dermatitis.

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