Parasite identification to help prevent "debilitating" diseases

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A woman sells produce at a flooded market place in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. UN Photo/Logan Abassi

A list of the most dangerous food-borne parasites drawn up by two UN agencies, could help prevent what have been called "debilitating" diseases.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), have published a “Top Ten” list of parasites and are preparing guidelines on how to control their transmission.

The parasites affect the health of millions of people every year, infecting muscle tissues and organs.

They can cause epilepsy, anaphylactic shock, amoebic dysentery and other health problems.

Sarah Cahill, a Food Safety Officer with FAO, says the threat from parasites is changing.

“In many countries we are seeing changes in the population in terms of immune status and some of these parasites where, for a perfectly healthy person would have no impact, can suddenly become a very debilitating disease for somebody who has an immune-compromised status.” (13″)

FAO says that despite their huge social costs and global impacts, information is generally lacking on parasites.

The agency says more research is needed on just where they come from, how they live in the body and, most importantly, how they make humans sick.

Sophie Outhwaite, United Nations

Duration:  1’13″

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