This review provides an update of the biological aspects of the genus Echinococcus and focuses on newly recognized endemic areas. Infection with the intermediate cystic stage of all species of Echinococcus causes disease and incapacity in animals and humans, and in the most serious cases, death of the host. Transmission of Echinococcus to new continents has occurred during European colonisation and the parasite has often taken advantage of Echinococcus-naive wildlife populations in these new environments, incorporating them into its transmission pattern. Echinococcus granulosus consists of a complex of 10 strains. Host specificities of these strains have important implications for transmission and control. As a result of human behaviour and/or political instability in a number of countries Echinococcus is re-emerging as an important public health issue. The importance of wildlife reservoirs in perpetuating transmission and as a source of infection for domestic animals and humans is addressed. The review also refers to the transmission pattern of a recently described new species, Echinococcus shiquicus, from China.