17 Symptoms Of Liver Flukes In Humans

Find out about 17 symptoms of liver flukes in humans in this article.

Also, discover how to know if you have these parasites.

Liver flukes affect more than 10% of the population1.

These parasites can wreak havoc on your body with severe possible clinical consequences2.

Yet, liver fluke infection remains a neglected disease1.

What are liver flukes?

Liver flukes are a group of flatworms in the class Trematoda.

They occur in the bile ducts, gallbladder, and liver of various mammals, including humans3.

These parasites are also capable of moving along the blood circulation3.

The two main species of liver flukes are Fasciola hepatica and Fasciola gigantica1.

Together with lung flukes and intestinal flukes, liver flukes form a group known as the “food-borne trematodes”1.

Geographic distribution

Fasciola hepatica has a wide geographic distribution occurring in all continents except Antarctica and is present in temperate regions of the world1.

Fasciola gigantica, on the other hand, occurs in more tropical areas of Africa and Asia1.

What is the most widespread human disease caused by flukes?

Adult liver flukes settle in the bile ducts where they live for about 20 to 30 years2.

They cause chronic inflammation of the bile duct system, known as cholangitis2,4.

This inflammation, in turn, produces epithelial cell proliferation, fibrosis, and bile duct dilatation2,5.

Most patients are asymptomatic, but individuals with heavy infection suffer from fatigue and nonspecific abdominal complaints2.

The complications of liver fluke disease are gallstone formation and biliary tract cancer, known as cholangiocarcinoma2,5,6.

Related: Do Liver Flukes Cause Cancer?

The function of the gallbladder

The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped hollow organ, which lies beneath the liver.

It receives and stores bile, produced by the liver, and releases it into the duodenum, where it helps in the digestion of fats.

Consequences of bile duct obstruction

When liver flukes mechanically obstruct your bile ducts2,5, bile can no longer run normally from your liver into your gallbladder and duodenum.

Instead, it stagnates in your liver, resulting in a fatty liver.

Liver flukes cause fatty liver.

Also, excess bile then circulates in your bloodstream, causing, sometimes, jaundice and changing the pH environment of other organs.

What are the symptoms of liver flukes in humans?

Although most liver fluke infections are asymptomatic2,9,10, here are some of the symptoms of this disease in humans:

  • Chronic fatigue2,7,8,9
  • Vertigo10
  • Lack of concentration (brain fog), ADHD9
  • Diarrhea5,8,9, IBS (constipation/diarrhea)9, and flatulance8
  • Abdominal pain5,9,11,12
  • Instability, irritability, and delusional disorders10
  • Insomnia9,10
  • Anxiety and depression9
  • Headache (cephalalgia)9,10,12
  • Bile duct stones and gallstones2,13
  • Jaundice5,12,13,14
  • Anorexia5,8,12,15 and weight loss11,12,15
  • Anemia5,7,10,15
  • Fatty liver6
  • Esophagitis (GERD)9,5
  • Nausea and vomiting5
  • Decreased libido9

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What are the clinical signs of liver flukes in humans?

The clinical signs of liver flukes in humans include:

  • A rise in eosinophils (eosinophilia)5,8,10,12,15
  • An increase in liver enzymes15
  • (Low grade) fever8,12
  • Bile duct dilatation2,5

Characteristics of liver flukes

What are the different stages in the life cycle of the liver fluke?

Fasciola hepatica being a hermaphrodite, it reproduces by itself or with another adult fluke in the bile ducts or gallbladder of its definite host15.

The parasite then releases its eggs, which escape the host’s body via the feces15.

When the eggs are laid and come into contact with freshwater, they hatch and release free-swimming larvae, known as miracidia16.

Life cycle of the liver fluke

The miracidia search for a snail and enter into the intermediate host for asexual reproduction16.

After asexual multiplication, tailed larvae, known as cercariae, emerge from the snail and swim through the water until they locate vegetation15.

The cercariae encyst on aquatic vegetation, such as watercress, becoming metacercariae, a resting type of larvae15,17.

The metacercariae are ingested by their definite host through eating or drinking5,15.

How many hosts will the liver fluke have during its life cycle?

At least two:

  1. The intermediate host (the snail)
  2. The final host (the mammal or the human)

How many metacercariae does one liver fluke produce?

Adult liver flukes lay between 8000 and 25 000 eggs per day15.

A single miracidium, in turn, can produce from 10 to 700 metacercariae15.

What do liver flukes look like?

Adult Fasciola hepatica liver flukes have a flat and leaf-shaped (oval) body3,5.

Fasciola hepatica

They are hermaphrodites, having complete sets of both male and female reproductive systems3.

What do liver flukes feed on?

Liver flukes feed primarily on blood3,15 but also on bile and liver tissue15.

They have, therefore, a red color, which turns brown when they die.

What size are liver flukes?

The three main types of liver flukes are the following size5,9:

SpeciesLength (in)Width (in)
Fasciola hepatica1,20,6
Fasciola giganta30,6
Clonorchis sinensis10,2

Do liver flukes have suckers?

The liver fluke has two suckers5:

  1. A large one on the ventral side that allows it to suction itself to the wall of the bile duct.
  2. Another sucker, smaller and more anterior, which it may use to feed on the bile.

Can liver flukes be seen in stool?

When liver flukes are passed in the stool they look like red pieces of rolled up tomato skins.

When the flukes are freshly dead, these “rolled up tomato skins” can be seen, given that they are bright red. They are sometimes mistaken for blood.

However, when the flukes have been dead for a while, these “rolled up tomato skins” are light brown and may, therefore, not be visible in the stool.

Symptoms of liver flukes in humans

*How do I know if I have liver flukes?*

An easy way to know if you have liver flukes is to look at the color of your stool.

Stools from a healthy individual are brown.

The reason is that when the two pigments of bile, bilirubin, and biliverdin, are mixed with the intestinal content, they give the brown color of feces18.

On the contrary, if your stools are pale (beige, yellow, or green), it could be a sign of bile duct obstruction11.

Related: 7 Foods To Avoid When You’re Infected With Parasites

How do you get liver flukes?

You can get infected with liver flukes from:

  1. Eating uncooked aquatic food, such as watercress5,10,12,15,19.
  2. The consumption of raw vegetables and fruits5,20.
  3. Drinking natural water10,12,15,20.
  4. Eating raw or poorly cooked fish2,8,9,13,14,15,21.
  5. Eating undercooked meat from herbivorous mammals (e.g. cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and deer)1,5,10,12 .

Related: Top 13 Foods That Kill Parasites In Humans

What are the symptoms of halzoun in humans?

Halzoun syndrome is a rare form of liver fluke disease that occurs in an unusual place, namely, the pharynx.

It is seen in the Middle East, in areas where people eat raw liver5.

In this case, the liver flukes attach themselves to the mucosa of the upper respiratory tract causing pharyngitis and, rarely, asphyxia5.

How To Get Rid Of Liver Flukes Naturally

Here Is How To Get Rid Of Liver Flukes Naturally.

Summary: Symptoms of liver flukes in humans

Liver flukes are a type of parasitic flatworm of the class Trematoda.

The vast majority of individuals infected with this worm are asymptomatic2.

Nevertheless, heavily infected individuals may suffer from a wide range of symptoms.

The main symptoms of liver flukes in humans are chronic fatigue and abdominal complaints2.

Other symptoms of liver flukes in humans include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Vertigo
  • Lack of concentration (brain fog), ADHD
  • Diarrhea, IBS (constipation/diarrhea), and flatulance
  • Abdominal pain
  • Instability, irritability, and delusional disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Headache (cephalalgia)
  • Bile duct stones and gallstones
  • Jaundice
  • Anorexia and weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Fatty liver
  • Esophagitis (GERD)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Decreased libido

Related: Pumpkin Seeds For Intestinal Parasites

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