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Cystic echinococcosis, caused by the larval stage of Echinococcus granulosus, is a global public health problem. Whilst in a few localities, such as New Zealand, the parasite has been effectively controlled or even eradicated, in most endemic regions it remains a persistent problem. In some areas, such as the former Soviet Union, the disease incidence in humans has increased rapidly in recent years. It is important to have an understanding of the transmission dynamics, both between dogs and domestic livestock where the parasite maintains itself and from dogs to people. It is from this knowledge that effective control measures can be devised to reduce the prevalence of the parasite in animals and hence reduce the incidence of human disease. Mathematical models to describe the transmission of the parasite and the effects of different control strategies were first proposed over twenty years ago. Since then further information has been acquired, new technology has been developed and better computing technology has become available. In this review, we summarise these developments and put together a theoretical framework on the interpretation of surveillance information, how this affects transmission and how this information can be exploited to develop new intervention strategies for the control of the parasite. In particular, the parasite remains a persistent or re-emerging problem in countries of low economic output where resources for an intensive control programme, that has been successful in rich countries, are not available. By understanding of the transmission biology, including mathematical modelling, alternative and cost-effective means of control can be developed.
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