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Pentastomiasis (porocephalosis, linguatulosis/linguatuliasis) 

Pentastomiasis (porocephalosis, linguatulosis/linguatuliasis)

David A. Warrell



Taxonomy—phylogenetic trees indicate coevolution of pentastomes and other maxillopodan/branchiuran parasites with their vertebrate hosts: birds, snakes, mammals, and fish

Updated on 31 May 2012. The previous version of this content can be found here.

Pentastomiases or porocephaloses are zoonotic infections caused by maxillopod crustacean parasites (subclass Pentastomida).

Linguatula serrata (‘tongueworm’)—this is cosmopolitan, infecting upper respiratory tracts of the definitive hosts, canids. Nymphs discharged in nasal secretions are taken up by herbivorous animals, the intermediate hosts, which pass on the infection when they are eaten. Humans may be infected by eating raw liver and other offal of sheep, goats, and other animals, soon after which acute allergic obstructive nasolaryngopharyngitis (halzoun or marrara syndrome) may develop. Larvae can be found in sputum and vomitus.

Armillifer spp.—these are confined to Africa and South-East Asia, where they infect the respiratory tracts of snakes. Humans are infected by drinking snake-polluted water or by eating raw snake, a common practice in some communities. Most infections are asymptomatic, but massive infections may produce symptoms of an acute abdomen and are rarely fatal by causing intestinal obstruction or enterocolitis. Nymphs are detected at laparotomy or autopsy and (calcified) on abdominal radiographs.

Treatment and prevention—aside from standard measures for hypersensitivity phenomena, there is no specific treatment, although mebendazole has been suggested. Prevention is by thoroughly cooking all meat of whatever origin.

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