What is Paragonimiasis?

Paragonimiasis is an infection that is caused by a parasitic worm called a fluke. The infection is caused by eating raw, undercooked, pickled, or salted crustaceans, such as crab or crayfish. The infection may also be caused by eating raw meat, such as wild boar. Sometimes, the infection in transmitted by using contaminated food utensils. Not long after the infection, larvae will inhabit the lungs. It may also spread to other organs such as the brain.


When this happens, a person may experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, hives, a fever, difficulty breathing and may develop lung abnormalities. The infection may causes symptoms that are similar to tuberculosis and may even be mistaken for it. The infections may last for up to twenty years. While the infection is rare in the United States, there are about 22 million people worldwide who are infected with lung flukes.

The signs and symptoms of paragonimiasis may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, hives, fever, cough, difficulty breathing, chest pain, malaise, and sweat. Chronic symptoms include a dry cough, a cough that produces rusty sputum, vague chest discomfort, difficulty breathing, wheezing, blood with coughing, and lung abnormalities. The risk factors for paragonimiasis include eating raw or undercooked crustaceans such as crabs or crayfish.

Paragonimiasis begins in an acute phase. In the acute phase, larvae develops in the small intestine and moves to the lungs. The symptoms start within two to fifteen days after the initial infection. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and hives. After a few days, other symptoms develop including fever, cough, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and sweat. About six months later, chronic symptoms develop. Chronic symptoms include a dry cough followed by a cough producing rusty sputum, vague chest discomfort, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing up blood. If a mature fluke makes its way to the bloodstream or if eggs enter the bloodstream the disease can affect other organs such as the brain, liver, or kidneys. It is important to diagnose the infection as soon as possible. Once a diagnosis has been made, the cure rate is between 90 and 100 percent.

Treatment for paragonimiasis includes taking a prescription medication that kills the fluke. The medication is taken for two days. If the brain has also been infected and the person develops seizures, the person will be treated for the seizures as well. Sometimes, surgery may be done to remove any lesions from the lungs.