Quantifying the neglected: initial estimation of the global burden and economic impact of human toxocariasis

Alistair Antonopoulos*, Alessio Giannelli, Eric R. Morgan, Johannes Charlier

*Corresponding author for this work

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Toxocariasis is a parasitic zoonotic infection caused by Toxocara spp., ascarid nematodes of companion animals (dogs and cats) affecting people in both high-income and low/middle-income countries. Toxocariasis can manifest as several distinct syndromes. The most frequent, often termed common toxocariasis, is a self-limiting and mild febrile illness. Ocular and visceral larva migrans are severe disease manifestations affecting the eye and other internal organs, respectively, but their reported occurrence is rare. The vast majority of symptomatic cases are thought due to common toxocariasis, which has also been associated with cognitive impairment in children. Few studies to date have sought to quantity the health burden of toxocariasis in humans. In this study we provide a preliminary estimation using the Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) approach. We estimate a total of 23,084 DALYs are lost annually in 28 selected countries due to common toxocariasis. Extrapolating based on a global average seroprevalence rate of 19%, we estimate 91,714 DALYs per year are lost across all countries due to toxocariasis, of which 40,912 are attributable to less severe forms, i.e. common toxocariasis, and 50,731 to cognitive impairment in children. Clinically diagnosed and reported ocular and visceral larva migrans represent a small proportion of estimated total health burden. We also found a positive correlation at national level between prevalence in cats or dogs and seroprevalence in humans, but no correlation between estimated soil contamination and seroprevalence in humans. Finally, we estimate the potential economic impact of toxocariasis in selected countries at 2.5 billion USD per annum, from costs of medical treatment and lost income. These preliminary estimates should serve as a call to action for further research and evidence-based measures to tackle toxocariasis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100180
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Research in Parasitology & Vector-Borne Diseases
Early online date31 May 2024
Publication statusEarly online date - 31 May 2024


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