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Capillaria hepatica (=Callodium hepatica) is a nematode worm that normally parasitizes non-human mammals, but occasionally infects humans, causing hepatic capillariasis.
Capillaria hepatica has a direct life cycle requiring just a single host. Adult worms invade the liver of the host (usually rodents, but also pigs, carnivores, and primates, including humans) and lay hundreds of eggs in the surrounding parenchyma. The eggs are not passed in the feces of the host, but rather remain in the liver until the animal dies and decomposes or is eaten by a predator or scavenger. Eggs ingested by another animal are unembryonated, are not infectious, and are passed in the feces, providing an efficient mechanism to release eggs into the environment. Cannibalism has been reported to play an important role in transmission among rodent populations. Eggs embryonate in the environment, where they require air and damp soil to become infective. Under optimal conditions, this takes around 30 days. The cycle continues when embryonated eggs are consumed by a suitable mammal host.Infective eggs hatch in the intestine, releasing larvae. The larvae migrate via the portal vein to the liver. Larvae take about four weeks to mature and mate. Humans are usually infected after ingesting embryonated eggs in fecal-contaminated food, water, or soil. Occasionally in humans larvae will migrate to the lungs, kidneys, or other organs. The presence of C. hepatica eggs in human stool during routine ova-and-parasite (O&P) examinations indicates spurious passage of ingested eggs rather than a true infection. Diagnosis in humans is usually achieved by finding adults and eggs in biopsy or autopsy specimens.
Rare cases of human infections with C. hepatica have been reported worldwide.