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Title: Metagonimiasis  
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Subject: Seafood, Surimi, List of infectious diseases, Har gow, List of human parasitic diseases
Collection: Helminthiases
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Metagonimiasis is a disease caused by an intestinal trematode, most commonly Metagonimus yokagawai, but sometimes by M. takashii or M. miyatai. The metagonimiasis causing flukes are one of two minute flukes called the heterophyids. Metagonimiasis was described by Katsurasa in 1911-1913 when he first observed eggs of M. yokagawai in feces (date is disputed in various studies). M. takahashii was described later first by Suzuki in 1930 and then M. Miyatai was describe in 1984 by Saito.

Stained Adult Fluke Causing Metagonimiasis


  • Characteristics 1
    • Classification of metagoniasis 1.1
    • Clinical presentation 1.2
  • Transmission 2
    • Reservoirs 2.1
    • Incubation period 2.2
  • Morphology 3
    • Eggs 3.1
    • Adult flukes 3.2
  • Diagnosis 4
  • Treatment 5
  • Metagonimus yokogawai 6
    • Life cycle 6.1
  • Epidemiological information 7
    • Worldwide distribution 7.1
    • Korea 7.2
    • Japan 7.3
    • India 7.4
  • Prevention efforts and implications for public health 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


Classification of metagoniasis

Metagonimiasis is most commonly caused by one of the two smallest flukes known to infect man, Metagonimus yokagawai, also called the Japanese fluke. More rarely, metagonimiasis can arise from infection with M. takahashii or M. miyatai. Recent studies analyzing the DNA of the three agents causing metagonimiasis found that DNA sequencing supports M. yokagawai and M. takahashii be placed in the same clade, and phylogenic tree analysis supports their genetic similarity. M. miyatai, however, was found to be more genetically distinct, and the authors concluded it should be nominated as a separate species. An additional study examining karyotype data on the three disease-causing agents also supported the nomination of M. miyatai as a separate species.

Trematodes are one class of phylum Platyhelminthes from the order Digenia and are generally referred to as flukes. Metagonimiasis is of the family Herterophyidae.

Clinical presentation

The main symptoms are diarrhea and colicky abdominal pain. Because symptoms are often mild, infections can often be easily overlooked but diagnosis is important. Flukes attach to the wall of the small intestine, but are often asymptomatic unless in large numbers. Infection can occur from eating a single infected fish source. Peripheral eosinophilia is associated especially in early phase. When present in large numbers, can cause chronic intermittent diarrhea, nausea, and vague abdominal pains. Clinical complaints can also include lethargy and anorexia. In acute metagonimiasis, clinical manifestations are developed only 5–7 days after infection. Heavy infection has also been associated with epigastric distress, fatigue, and malaise.

Occasionally, flukes invade the mucosa and eggs deposited in tissue may gain access to circulation. This can then lead to eggs embolizing in the brain, spinal cord, or heart. Granulomas may form around eggs and can cause seizures, neurologic deficits, or cardiac insufficiency.

An interesting case in Japan found Diabetes Mellitus (DM) to be a sign of chronic infection with intracerebral hemorrhages as the acute sign of aggravation. Two months after administering the appropriate drug, Praziquantel, the ICHs were gone, as was the man's Diabetes Mellitus. This unique case shows the potential of additional symptoms associated with metagonimiasis that are still unknown.


Transmission requires two intermediate hosts, the first of which is snails, most commonly of species Semisucospira libertine, Scoreana, and Thiara granifera.

Semisulcospira Snail

Infection is acquired through the secondary intermediate host, fish, that haven’t been thoroughly cooked. Metacercariae encyst under the scales or in the flesh of fish from fresh or brackish water. Sweetfish (Pecoglossus altevelis) is one of the most common fish species infected, but other include the golden carp (Carassius auratus), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), Zacco temminckii, Protimus steindachneri, Acheilognathus lancedata, and Pseudorashora parva.

Definitive hosts include humans and various fish-eating mammals, primarily dogs, cats, and pigs. Fish-eating birds may also be infected with metagonimiasis.


Reservoirs include fish-eating mammals such as dogs, cats and pigs as well as fish-eating birds. The presence of heterophyid infection in humans is generally caused by a lack of host specificity by the parasites, as seen in the many non-human reservoirs for metagonimiasis. The many reservoirs also have negative implications on the efficacy of prevention and eradication efforts of the disease.

Incubation period

The incubation period is around 14 days and infestation may persist for more than one year.



The morphology of the eggs is very important for diagnosis, but is difficult as eggs are very small. Eggs have a smooth, hard shell that is transparent and yellow-brown with a more conventional, ovoid egg shape. They are about the same size as those of Heterophers and Clonorchis, usually measuring 26-28 μm length and 15-17μm width. The egg also has a very slight opercular shoulder, marking the line of cleavage between the shell and operculum, an “escape hatch” for the mircidium. The Clonorchis has more distinctive tapering and a seated operculum that help distinguish it more readily from Metagonimus species.

Adult flukes

The body of the adult disease-causing agent of metagonimiasis is often described as leaf-shaped, similar to most organ in the body. The size of the adult fluke does not exceed 2.5 mm length by .75 mm width.

Adult Fluke (from CDC)


Metagonimiasis is diagnosed by eggs seen in feces. Only after antihelminthic treatment will adult worms be seen in the feces, and then can be used as part of a diagnostic procedure. A 1993 analysis of the efficacy of ELISA tests to diagnose metagonimiasis implied that simultaneous screening of specific antibodies to several parasite agents are important in serological diagnosis of acute parasitic disease and more research should be done on the efficacy of these methods of diagnosis.

Diagnosis may be difficult because the egg-laying capacity of heterophyids is limited, and therefore sedimentation concentration procedures may be needed to demonstrate eggs in lighter infections. Accurate species identification is also difficult because eggs of most flukes are similar in size and morphology, especially those of Heterophyes heterophyes, Clonorchis and Opisthorchis. It is important to ask where the person may have contracted the disease, find out if they have been to en endemic area, and check for signs and symptoms that would lead to metagonimiasis.


Praziquantel is recommended in both adult and pediatric cases with dosages of 75 mg/kg/d in 3 doses for 1 day. Praziquantel is a Praziniozoquinoline derivative that alters the calcium flux through the parasite tectum and causes muscular paralysis and detachment of the fluke. Prizaquantel should be taken with liquids during a meal and as provided commercially as Biltricide. Praziquantel is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of metagonimiasis, but is approved for use on other parasitic infections.

Praziquantel has some side effects but they are generally relatively mild and transient and a review of evidence shows it overall a well-tolerated drug. Possible side effects include World Health Organization recommended the use of Praziquantel in pregnant and lactating women, though controlled trials are still needed to verify this.

Another possible drug option is Tetrachloroethylene, a chlorinated hydrocarbon, but its use has been superseded by new antihelminthic drugs (like Praziquantel). A 1978 study also looked at the efficacy of several drugs on metagonimiasis infection, including bithionol, niclosamide, nicoflan, and Praziquantel. All drugs showed lower prevalence of eggs in feces, however only Praziquantel showed complete radical cure. Therefore the authors concluded Praziquantel was the most highly effective, was very well tolerated, and was the most promising drug against metagonimiasis.

Metagonimus yokogawai

Life cycle

Here, the life cycle of M. yokagawai will be examined, however, it should be noted M. takahashii and M. miyatai follow similar life cycle pattern. All three species are hermaphroditic and capable of self-fertilization. Embryonated eggs are passed into an aquatic environment (fresh or brackish water) each containing a fully developed larva, called a miracidium. Development can’t proceed past this stage unless the eggs are ingested by the first intermediary host, snails. After the snail host ingests the eggs, miracidia emerge and penetrate the snail’s intestines. In the snail tissue, mircadia develop into sporocysts, then rediae, and finally emerge from the snail as cercariae. The cercariae then penetrate the skin or go under the scale of a fresh or brackish water fish and encyst as metacercariae in the tissue. The type of fish that serves as secondary host varies based on location. The host then becomes infected by consuming undercooked, raw, or pickled fish containing the infectious metacercariae. The metacercariae then excyst in the small intestine of the host (human, mammal or bird), and develop into adults. In the small intestine, the adults attach to the walls and develop new eggs.

Epidemiological information

Worldwide distribution

Metagonimiasis infections are endemic or potentially endemic in 19 countries including Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, the Balkans, Spain, Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia. Human infections outside endemic areas may result from ingesting pickled fish or sushi made from fish imported from endemic areas.


Food-borne trematodes are currently the most important parasitic infections in Korea and approximately 240,000 Koreans are believed to be currently infected. Of the 240,000 estimated to be infected, 120,000 are caused by M. yokagawai, 20,000 by M. takahashii, and 100,000 by M. miyatai. The national rate of infections among randomly selected people was 1.2% in 1981, 1.0% in 1986, and down to 0.5% in 2004. M. yokagawai infections are found mostly around the large and small streams where sweetfish live and have been identified as endemic foci. M. miyatai and M. takahashii are prevalent along the upper reaches of the big rivers where minnows and carps are caught for eating raw.


Metagonimiasis is also common in Japan, with 10-15% prevalence rates in populations bordering major rivers and 150,000 estimated infected. Food-borne trematodes are most common in rural areas where traditional food habits are more preserved and raw freshwater fishes are incorporated into the diet. Interestingly, both clonorchiasis and metagonimiasis have become infections of higher social classes in Hong Kong and Japan, owing to their frequent consumption of raw fish.


There have also recently been two reported cases in India, a location in which occurrence of infection is almost unknown. The second case, in 2005, was in a 6-year-old female patient presenting with loose watery stools for four days (however more details were not obtained as the patient was both deaf and dumb since birth). Upon examination, M. yokagawai eggs were found in stool, but the patient left and further analysis and treatment could not be completed.

Prevention efforts and implications for public health

Several public health prevention strategies could help lower the incidence of metagonimiasis. One is to control the intermediate host (snails). This can be done through use of molluscidals. Another is to use education to ensure all people, especially in endemic areas, fully cook all fish. This could potentially be problematic and not as effective as hoped as many of the people affected by metagonimiasis eat raw or pickled fish as part of a traditional, long-seated dietary practice. Additionally, implementing more sanitary water conditions would reduce the continual reintroduction of eggs to water sources, thus restarting the lifecycle. Complete control of metagonimiasis presents several potential problems because it does have several reservoir hosts, thus eradication is unlikely.

See also


Ahn, Yung-Kyum. “Intestinal flukes of genus Metagonimus and their second intermediate hosts in Kangwon-do.” Korean Journal of Parasitology. Vol. 31: 331-340. 1993.

Ash, Lawrence; Orihel, Thomas. Atlas of Human Parasitology. Fourth Edition. American Society of Clinical Pathologists. 1997. Chai, Jong-Yil et al. “An epidemiological study of metagonimiasis along the upper reaches of the Namham River.” Korean Journal of Parasitology. Vol. 31: 99-108. 1993.

Chi, Je G. et al. “Intestinal Pathology in Human Metagonimiasis with Ultrastructural Observation of Parasites.” Journal of Korean Medical Science. Vol. 3: 171-177. 1998.

Despommier D.; Gwadz R.; Hotez P.; Knirsch C. Parasitic Diseases. Fifth Edition. New York: Apple Trees Productions. 2006. Doenhoff, M. J., D. Cioli, and J. Utzinger. “Praziquantel: mechanisms for action, resistance, and new derivatives for schistosomiasis.” Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases. Vol 21:659-667. 2008.

FAO/NACA/WHO. “Food Safety Issues Associated with Products from Aquaculture.” WHO Technical Report Series. Geneva, 1999.

Han, In-Soo et al. “An Epidemiologic Study on Clonorchiasis and Metagonimiasis in Riverside Areas in Korea.” Korean Journal of Parasitology. Vol. 19: 137-150. 1981.

Lee, Jin-Ju, et al. “Decrease of Metagonimus yokogawai Endemicity along the Tamjin River Basin.” Korean Journal of Parasitology. Vol. 46: 269-291. 2008.

Lee, Gye-Sung et al. “Epidemiological study of clonorchiasis and metagonimiasis along the Geum-gang in Okcheon-gun, Korea.” Korean Journal of Parasitology. Vol. 40: 9-16. 2002.

Lee, Seoung Cheol et al. “Antigenti c protein fractions of Metagonimus yokogawai reacting with patient sera.” Korean Journal of Parasitology. Vol. 31: 43-48. 1993.

Lee, Soo-ung et al. “Sequence comparisons of 28S ribosomal DNA and mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I of Metgonimus yokogawai, M. takahashii, and M. miyatai.” Korean Journal of Parasitology. Vol. 24: 129-135. 2004.

Lee, Soo-ung et al. “A cytogenetic study on human intestinal trematodes of the genus Metagonimus in Korea.” Korean Journal of Parasitology. Vol. 37: 237-241. 1999.

Markell, EK; John, DT; Krotoski, WA. Markell and Voge's Medical Parasitology. Ninth Edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company. 2006.

Mehlhorn, Heinz. Encyclopedic Reference of Parasitology. Second Edition. Germany: Springer. 2001.

“Metagonimiasis.” Gideon Online.

Pawlowski, Zbigniew S. “Intestinal Helminthiases and Human Health: Recent Advances and Future Needs.” Parasitic Disease Programme, WHO. 1987.

Rim, Han-Jong et al. “Antihelminthic Effects of Various Drugs against Metagonimiasis.” Korean Journal of Parasitology. Vol. 16: 117-122. 1978.

Rim, Han-Jong. “Classification and host specificity of Metagonimus spp. from Korean freshwater fish.” Korean Journal of Parasitology. Vol. 34: 7-14. 1996.

Shin, Eun-Hee et al. “Trends in parasitic diseases in the Republic of Korea.” Trends in Parasitology. Vol. 24: 143-150. 2008.

“The Medical Letter.” Drugs for Parasitic Infections. 2005.

Uppal, B. and V. Wadhwal. “Rare Case of Metagonimus Yokogawai.” Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology. Vol. 23: 61-62. 2005.

WHO/FAO. “Food-Borne Trematode Infections in Asia.” Ha Noi, Vietnam, 2002.

WHO. “Integrated Guide to Sanitary Parasitology.” Jordan, 2004.

WHO. “Review on the Epidemiological Profile of Helminthes and their Control in the Western Pacific region, 1997-2008.” 2006.

Yamada, Shoko Merrit et al. “A Case of Metagonimiasis Complicated with Multiple Intracerbral Hemorrhages and Diabetes Mellitus.” Journal of Nippon Medical School. 2008.

External links

  • Metagonimiasis
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