Epidemiology and genetic diversity of Taenia asiatica: a systematic review

Anita Ale, Bjorn Victor, Nicolas Praet, Sarah Gabriël, Niko Speybroeck, Pierre Dorny, Brecht Devleesschauwer

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    Taenia asiatica has made a remarkable journey through the scientific literature of the past 50 years, starting with the paradoxical observation of high prevalences of T. saginata-like tapeworms in non-beef consuming populations, to the full description of its mitochondrial genome. Experimental studies conducted in the 1980s and 1990s have made it clear that the life cycle of T. asiatica is comparable to that of T. saginata, except for pigs being the preferential intermediate host and liver the preferential location of the cysts. Whether or not T. asiatica can cause human cysticercosis, as is the case for Taenia solium, remains unclear. Given the specific conditions needed to complete its life cycle, in particular the consumption of raw or poorly cooked pig liver, the transmission of T. asiatica shows an important ethno-geographical association. So far, T. asiatica has been identified in Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, south-central China, Vietnam, Japan and Nepal. Especially this last observation indicates that its distribution is not restricted to South-East-Asia, as was thought so far. Indeed, the molecular tools developed over the last 20 years have made it increasingly possible to differentiate T. asiatica from other taeniids. Such tools also indicated that T. asiatica is related more closely to T. saginata than to T. solium, feeding the debate on its taxonomic status as a separate species versus a subspecies of T. saginata. Furthermore, the genetic diversity within T. asiatica appears to be very minimal, indicating that this parasite may be on the verge of extinction. However, recent studies have identified potential hybrids between T. asiatica and T. saginata, reopening the debate on the genetic diversity of T. asiatica and its status as a separate species.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalParasites and Vectors
    Pages (from-to)45
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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