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  Helminthology is the study of parasitic worms (helminths), responsible for a number of serious diseases of humans and food animals. The single most important helminth parasite of humans is the blood-dwelling fluke Schistosoma, which infects several hundred million people worldwide, causing death and disability for its human hosts and serious economic problems for the countries where it occurs. Other helminth diseases of humans include river blindness and tapeworm infection, while the liver fluke is a serious problem in sheep. The study of helminths is a relatively recent science and was initially involved in the elucidation of other life cycles of important worms; these are often complex, involving several hosts. Modern studies have focused on the immunology of helminthological infections and it has emerged that these pathogens, which are unusual parasites in that they are complex multicellular organisms, have evolved special techniques for evading and disrupting normal host defences. These studies are important in the search for treatments but are also fascinating models of evolution. RB

See also aetiology; epidemiology; parasitology.Further reading Philip Whitfield, The Biology of Parasitism.



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