Neglected tropical diseases cause immense morbidity, high mortality, and very significant economic losses in developing countries worldwide; however, the epidemiological situation is often highly complex, making control or eradication difficult. The human liver fluke, Opisthorchis viverrini, occurs in the Mekong area of Southeast Asia where well over 60 million people are at risk of infection and at least 10 million are currently infected. This parasite is known to induce cancer of the biliary system, leading to the highest incidence of cholangiocarcinoma in this area anywhere in the world, with thousands dying every year. O. viverrini has a complex life cycle involving a freshwater snail from the genus Bithynia as first intermediate host, a cyprinid fish as second intermediate host, and humans as the most important final host. Human infection occurs when raw or undercooked fish – a traditional dish in this area – containing the parasite is consumed.
In an interdisciplinary project, a consortium of Thai, British, and German scientists aims to analyze the possibilities to interrupt the life cycle of the liver fluke to combat infection. The German team is coordinated by the KIT Zoological Institute, ITAS is involved with systems analysis of sanitation technologies. The funding of the project pre-phase is granted until the end of 2016.