Research on human parasites in Iceland

Since 1881, annual reports on public health, written by local medical doctors, have been compiled and published by the Directorate General of Health in Iceland. These reports not only contain valuable information on the occurrence of sarcoptidosis and echinococcosis, the only notable human parasitic diseases in the country, but also on some other endemic parasites.

During 1939-1962, a checklist of most parasitic groups occurring in Iceland was compiled by several foreign scientists and published, together with some taxonomic and zoogeographical information, in the series 'Zoology of Iceland'. Human parasites are mentioned in the issues on Cestoda (Baer 1962), Nematoda (Kreis 1958), Hemiptera (Fristrup 1945), Siphonaptera (Henriksen 1939), and Mallophaga and Anoplura (Overgaard 1942). However, the occurrence of protozoan parasites does not seem to have been reported until the second half of the twentieth century.

In recent decades human parasites have been identified and examined at different institutions in Iceland. Ectoparasites and parasites in blood and tissues, have mainly been identified by specialists working at Icelandic hospitals or health centres. During 1973 to May 1999, gastrointestinal parasites (protozoan oocysts, helminth eggs, or larvae) were routinely surveyed at the Institute for Experimental Pathology at Keldur, mainly by studying faecal samples using the formalin-ethylacetate concentration method (Richter et al. 1990a,b). In this period approximately 12 750 faecal samples from 8 650 individuals were examined (Table 4.1). On an average, parasites have been found in c.10% of these individuals. In recent years approximately three-fourths of the samples (72% in 1997) originated from Icelandic citizens but the remaining part was from guest workers and immigrants. Since June 1999, faecal samples have been examined at the National University Hospital in Reykjavik.

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