Cercarial dermatitis transmitted by exotic marine snail

Sara V. Brant, Andrew N. Cohen, David James, Lucia Hui, Albert Hom, Eric S. Loker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Cercarial dermatitis (swimmer's itch) is caused by the penetration of human skin by cercariae of schistosome parasites that develop in and are released from snail hosts. Cercarial dermatitis is frequently acquired in freshwater habitats, and less commonly in marine or estuarine waters. To investigate reports of a dermatitis outbreak in San Francisco Bay, California, we surveyed local snails for schistosome infections during 2005-2008. We found schistosomes only in Haminoea japonica, an Asian snail first reported in San Francisco Bay in 1999. Genetic markers place this schistosome within a large clade of avian schistosomes but do not match any species for which there are genetic data. It is the second known schistosome species to cause dermatitis in western North American coastal waters; these species are transmitted by exotic snails. Introduction of exotic hosts can support unexpected emergence of an unknown parasite with serious medical or veterinary implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1357-1365
Number of pages9
JournalEmerging Infectious Diseases
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2010


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