Helminthology

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Helminthology

 

the scientific study of parasitic worms and helminthiases—the diseases that they cause in man, animals, and plants. As part of the complex of parasitological sciences, helminthology is closely associated at the same time with many other biological sciences (chiefly zoology), medicine, veterinary science, and plant pathology. It deals with a variety of problems, theoretical as well as practical. The main theoretical problems include elucidation of the ways in which parasitism originates in helminths, study of the historical development of helminths, and investigation of the nature of the interrelations between helminths and the hosts that they parasitize. Practical problems include the detailed study of all the pathologomorphological and pathologo-physiological processes involved in the infestation of man and useful animals and plants with various helminths, in order to find the most effective methods of diagnosing, preventing, and treating helminthiases.

The main branches of helminthology are general helminthology (study of the fauna, morphology, taxonomy, biological cycles, and physiology of helminths); medical helminthology (human helminthiases and methods of controlling them); veterinary helminthology (helminthiases of domestic and game animals and methods of controlling them); and agronomical helminthology or plant helminthology (study of the effect of helminths on plants and methods of controlling plant helminthiases).

The earliest information on parasitic worms dates far back into antiquity, but helminthology as a science did not begin to develop until the second half of the 18th century. The pioneer in this field is generally thought to be the German scientist K. A. Rudolphi, who was the first to collect parasitic worms and write a major monograph about them. The works of other scientists appeared at about the same time. They were devoted to the morphology, species composition, and position of helminths in the zoological system. The subsequent period in the history of helminthology (second half of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries) was characterized by a steadily increasing number of works in the zoogeography and classification of different groups of parasitic worms and by broad experimental research aimed at uncovering the complex life cycles of helminths (for example, the works of the Danish zoologist J. Steenstrup, the German researchers G. Küchenmeister, R. Leuckart, and M. Braun, the French scientist A. Railliet, the Russian zoologist N. A. Kholodkovskii, and the Swiss helminthologist O. Forman).

Present-day helminthologists make extensive use of methods based on advances in chemistry and physics. This has made it possible to gain more insight into the morphological and physiological changes that take place in helminths in the various stages of individual development (ontogeny), to study the mechanisms of their adaptation to changing environmental conditions, and to elucidate more fully the various aspects of the relationship between parasite and host. Research on these matters is responsible for the characteristics of modern helminthology.

Research on helminthology is most vigorously pursued in the USSR, where the world’s largest school of helminthologists is found. It is concerned with the main branches of helminthology—general, medical, and veterinary—and it also deals with plant helminthology. The founder and director of the school of Soviet helminthologists was K. I. Skriabin, and E. N. Pavlovskii and V. A. Dogel’ made an important contribution to the development of helminthology in the USSR. B. E. Bykhovskii made a thorough study of flatworms. Highly qualified Soviet specialists are at work in general, medical, veterinary, and agronomical helminthology. The All-Union Society of Helminthologists, which is part of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (AN SSSR), was founded in 1940. Among the scientific research organizations that were established are the Academician K. I. Skriabin All-Union Institute of Helminthology, which coordinates work on veterinary and agronomical helminthology; and the Helminthology Division of the E. I. Martsinovskii Institute of Medical Parasitology and Tropical Medicine, which coordinates work on medical parasitology. In addition, there is the Helminthology Laboratory of the AN SSSR, which coordinates research in general helminthology. More than 300 helminthologjcal expeditions worked in all the natural regions of the USSR to determine the species composition of helminths of man and animals and to discover the nidi of dangerous parasites. The result was a fairly complete study of the helminth fauna. Major helminthological works describing the world’s helminth fauna were written, including the series of monographs by K. I. Skriabin and his students on trematodes (22 volumes), cestodes (seven volumes), nematodes (22 volumes), and acanthocephalans (two volumes).

In his efforts to improve the health of human beings and domestic animals, K. I. Skriabin advanced the principle of devastation—that is, a set of scientifically sound measures directed at the total destruction of some of the most pathogenic species of helminths. Soviet helminthologists are pursuing a fundamentally new policy that is based on therapeutic measures combined with preventive dehelmin-thization of the environment in order to destroy helminths in all stages of development and to improve radically the health of both human beings and domestic animals. The fight against helminthiases in the USSR is regulated by legislation and included in the state economic plan. Significant research in the field of helminthology is being conducted in the USA (A. Foster, H. W. Manter, and R. Rausch), Canada (T. W. Cameron), Mexico (C. E. Coballero), Brazil (L. Travassos), Great Britain (R. T. Leiper), France (R. Dolfus and A. Chabo), Poland (W. Stefański and W. Michailow), Czechoslovakia (J. Hovorka and B. Rišavi), India (G. Tapar), and Japan (S. Yamaguti).

The results of scientific and practical work on helminthology are presented in parasitological journals (Parazitologiia [Parasitology] has been published in the USSR since 1967), thematic collections, and specialized journals. The latter include Helminthologia (Bratislava, since 1959, an international journal with K. I. Skriabin as editor in chief), Journal of Helminthology (London, since 1923, organ of the London Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Helminthologi-cal Abstracts (St. Albans, since 1932, organ of the World Helminthological Bureau, Great Britain), Indian Journal of Helminthology (Lucknow, since 1948, organ of the Indian Society of Helminthologists), and Proceedings of the Helminthological Society of Washington (Washington, D.C., since 1934, organ of the Washington Society of Helminthologists).

K. M. RYZHIKOV

Medical helminthology. The study of helminths that infest man and the search for effective methods of controlling helminthiases are known as medical helminthology. About 250 species of helminths can infest man. In Russia F. V. Ovsiannikov, A. P. Fedchenko, S. P. Botkin, K. N. Vinogradov, V. M. Manassein, N. F. Mel’nikov-Razvedenkov, N. A. Khlodkovskii, A. Ia. Kozhevnikov, I. I. Mechnikov, M. G. Kurlov, and N. I. Ragoza made a valuable contribution to the creation and development of medical helminthology. K. I. Skriabin began his scientific work in 1912. Specialized medical helminthological organizations were not established in Russia until after the Great October Revolution. The E. I. Martsinovskii Institute of Medical Parasitology and Tropical Medicine is the scientific center and the organizational and methodological center of medical helminthology. Institutes of medical parasitology and tropical medicine are functioning in the Georgian SSR and Azerbaijan SSR, and there are institutes of parasitology and helminthology in the RSFSR and the Uzbek SSR. Scientific and practical work is also being conducted by parasitological departments of the institutes of epidemiology and microbiology, by sanitary-epidemiological stations, and by the Tiumen’ Medical Institute of Regional Infectious Pathology.

Research in medical parasitology is closely connected with the practical activities of the public health system. The Committee for the Control of Helminthiases of the Ministry of Health of the USSR, which has both scientists and practical workers as members, promotes such cooperation. Several helminthiases (for example, dracunculiasis) have been eradicated in the USSR, and the incidence of others has declined. The complementary schools founded by K. I. Skriabin, E. N. Pavlovskii, and V. A. Dogel’ are playing a very important role in the development of medical helminthology. Soviet helminthologists of various specialties are brought together in the All-Union Society of Helminthologists of the AN SSSR. Medical helminthology is taught in medical institutes and institutes for the advanced training of physicians.

The problems of medical helminthology are discussed in a number of medical journals, chiefly Meditsinskaia parazitologiia i parazitarnye bolezni (Medical Parasitology and Parasitic Diseases, since 1923), the popular journal Zdorov’e (Health, since 1955), the transactions of the Society of Helminthologists, the transactions of institutes, and several monographs and handbooks.

N. N. PLOTNIKOV

Veterinary helminthology. The study of the helminths that infest domestic, game, and wild animals and the development of methods of controlling the diseases caused by these parasites constitute the science of veterinary helminthology. More than 2,000 species of helminths are encountered in veterinary practice. The measures against helminthiases that have been developed by veterinary helminthology include preventing losses of animals and lowered animal productivity. In fighting against diseases common to man and animals (helminthozoonoses) veterinary helminthology protects human beings against many dangerous diseases, including taeniasis and echinococcosis. The Soviet school of veterinary helminthologists has studied the biology of most of the helminths that infest animals as well as the epizootology of the most dangerous helminthiases. A well-balanced system of control measures was developed on this basis. These measures are regulated by legislation and included in the general state economic plan. The Academician K. I. Skriabin All-Union Institute of Helminthology is the scientific center and the organizational and methodological center of veterinary helminthology. The primary goal of veterinary helminthology is to reduce the incidence of fascioliasis, monieziasis, dictyocauliasis, ascariasis, coenurosis, and echinococcosis. Veterinary helminthology is part of the curriculum of the parasitology subdepartments of veterinary institutions of higher learning, veterinary departments, and technicums.

REFERENCES

Skriabin, K. I., and R. S. Shul’ts. Osnovy obshchei gel’mintologii. Moscow, 1940.
Pavlovskii, E. N. Rukovodstvo po parazitologii cheloveka, 5th ed., vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946.
Skriabin, K. I. Trematody zhivotnykh i cheloveka, vols. 1-22. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947-66.
Osnovy nematodologii, vols. 1-22. Edited by K. I. Skriabin. Moscow, 1949-71.
Osnovy tsestodologii, vols. 1-7. Edited by K. I. Skriabin. Moscow, 1951-69.
Petrochenko, V. I. Akantotsefaly (skrebni) domashnikh i dikikh zhivotnykh, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1956-58.
Bykhovskii, B. E. Monogeneticheskie sosal’shchiki, ikh sistema i filogeniia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1957.
Pod’iapol’skaia, V. P., and V. F. Kapustin. Glistnye bolezni cheloveka, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1958.
Dogel’, V. A. Obshchaia parazitologiia. Leningrad, 1962.
Stroitel’stvo gel’mintologicheskoi nauki i praktiki v SSSR, vols. 1-4. Moscow, 1962-69.
Parazitologiia i invazionnye bolezni sel’skokhoziaistvennykh zhivotnykh, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1964.
Mnogotomnoe rukovodstvo po mikrobiologii, klinike i epidemiologii infektsionnyk boleznei, vol. 9. Moscow, 1968. Pages 271-699.
Shul’ts, R. S., and E. V. Gvozdev. Osnovy obshchei gel’mintologii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1969.