Fascioliasis in Humans: Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition and Anatomy courses for several years. He has a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from Furman University and a M.S. in Dietetics & Nutrition from Florida International University. He is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C)

Fascioliasis is a disease in which flatworms crawl throughout a person's abdomen. Be sure to read this article for great information about the symptoms, prevention, and treatment of fascioliasis.

Making Your Stomach Crawl, Literally

Steve is a 20 year-old college student who recently went on a spring break trip to Cancun. During the trip, Steve and his friends took a short excursion to nearby, rural towns to experience the local culture and customs. While in these rural towns, Steve consumed some freshly prepared food from a street vendor, which contained several different types of locally grown produce.

About a week after returning home from his trip, Steve started to feel sick. He developed a fever, was very fatigued, and had constant stomach pains. Steve was worried that he might have contracted something during his trip to Mexico, so he went to the nearest hospital to get checked out. Doctors in the hospital took Steve through several different tests in hopes to find the cause of his recent illness. Once all the tests results came back, doctors concluded that Steve had fascioliasis, a disease where flatworms crawl throughout a person's abdomen.

What is Fascioliasis?

Fascioliasis is an infection caused by two different types of flatworms, Fasciola hepatica and Fasciola gigantica. These flatworms (commonly called liver flukes) are leaf-shaped and are found in over 50 different countries worldwide. People can contract fascioliasis by eating produce or drinking water that are contaminated with the larvae of these flatworms (the produce that Steve consumed from the street vendor in Mexico was probably not washed properly and contained these larvae).

This is a picture of a Fasciola hepatica, one of the flatworms that causes fascioliasis.
fasciola hepatica

There are two different phases of fascioliasis, which includes:

  • Acute phase: The larvae eat through the walls of the intestines and travel to the liver. The larvae then eat through the liver until they get to the bile ducts.
  • Chronic phase: Once the larvae are in the bile ducts of the liver, they will grow into adult flatworms and lay eggs. These eggs will then travel to the intestines and will then be excreted in the feces.


The symptoms of fascioliasis depends on what phase of the disease a person is experiencing. The following chart describes the various symptoms of each specific phase:

Phase of Fascioliasis Symptoms
Acute phase Fever, nausea, internal bleeding (from the larvae eating the tissues of the internal organs), skin rashes, stomach pains. These symptoms usually start about four to seven days following the initial infection and last a couple weeks to a couple months.
Chronic phase Stomach pains, anemia, pancreatitis (inflammed pancreas), wide-spread bacterial infections, hepatomegaly (enlargement of the liver). Symptoms of the chronic phase can start anywhere from several months to years after the larvae first entered the body.

Prevention & Treatment

The best way to prevent fascioliasis is to avoid consuming produce and water that may be contaminated with the flatworm larvae (especially in less developed areas that do not have proper sanitation techniques). Drinking bottled water when traveling to other countries and thoroughly washing fresh produce can help eliminate the larvae.

Treatment of fascioliasis will often involve taking the medication triclabendazole, which is designed to kill the flatworms that are located in the liver. Triclabendazole is an oral medication that is usually taken in one or two doses.

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