Finnish wild berries can be eaten without fear of echinococcus infection


<div>As Echinococcus multilocularis has become more common in Central Europe during the last decades, many Central Europeans avoid eating wild berries as they are afraid that there might be eggs of the parasite from fox faeces on the surface of the berries. Echinococcus multilocularis is not found in Finland, which means that wild berries can be eaten in Finland without fear of contamination from echinococcus.</div>

The echinococci are small tapeworms of the Echinococcus genus. In their lifecycle the main host is a predator (in general a canine), in whose small intestine there could be tens of thousands of adult worms without causing harm to the main host. In addition, as part of their lifecycle a suitable mammalian intermediate host is needed, this will then be food for the main host. The larvae of the parasite develop in cysts in the tissue of the intermediate host. There are five species in the Echinococcus genus. In addition to transmission by faeces from the main hosts to the actual intermediate hosts, echinococci may also be transmitted to humans who may become seriously ill after having been infected. There is no vaccine against the echinococcus. Humans are generally a meaningless dead end in the lifecycle of the parasite, a so-called erroneous host.

In areas close to Finland Echinococcus multilocularis is found at least in Estonia, Denmark, Spitzbergen and north-western Russia to the east of the White Sea. In the lifecycle of Echinococcus multilocularis a fox, dog or raccoon dog is the main host and the intermediate host is a rodent, usually a vole.

As Echinococcus multilocularis found in areas close to Finland, thousands of voles that could be intermediate hosts are examined in Finland annually by the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) and at the Food Safety Authority Evira hundreds of foxes and raccoon dogs are examined for contamination. In this way the potential entry of the contamination into Finland can be discovered as early as possible.

Of the species of the echinococcus genus Echinococcus granulosus G4 is found in imported horses, which have been contaminated by dog faeces in the country of origin and Echinococcus granulosus G10 in elk and reindeer. Cysts are formed in their internal organs after they have eaten eggs of the parasite from the faeces of wolves. The risk of humans contracting the Echinococcus granulosus G10 strain from berries was estimated in a scientific risk assessment study in 2002 to be very small.

For more information, please contact:

Head of Unit Antti Oksanen, Evira, tel. 020 77 24900, 044 561 6491

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