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Toxocarosis in humans: how much of a problem is it in the UK?
  1. Jacoby Patterson
  1. Senior Research Consultant, Windsor, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jacoby Patterson, Senior Research Consultant, Windsor, UK; jacobyvpatterson{at}


Toxocara canis (from dogs) is recognised as a potential cause of human toxocarosis, but Toxocara cati (from cats) and other species (eg, Toxascaris leonina found in foxes) are also possible causes. Most colonisation with Toxocara species does not lead to symptomatic infection in well-cared for adult animals; young and debilitated animals are at greater risk. Humans can acquire infection from infected animals, for example, via soil contaminated with faeces; however, most human infections are asymptomatic, with symptomatic infection being very rare in the UK. The risk of human infection is reduced by measures such as hand washing and responsible disposal of dog faeces. Some organisations recommend regular prophylactic treatment of pet dogs and cats. However, there are concerns that some parasiticides are contaminating the environment. As an example of a One-Health problem there is a potential conflict between the needs of animal health, human health and the health of the wider ecosystem. Also, considering that only about 5% of non-juvenile household dogs shed Toxocara eggs at a given time, it has been questioned whether it is worthwhile to invest in frequent blind treatments. British veterinary organisations have suggested less frequent treatment may be more appropriate and should be based on individual risk assessment and faecal examinations for worms rather than blanket regular prophylactic treatment, which could reduce the impact of parasiticides on the environment without greatly increasing the risks to animal or human health.

  • Infections
  • Therapeutics
  • Inappropriate Prescribing

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