Fish Parasites: A Growing Concern During Pregnancy

Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2016 Apr;71(4):253-9. doi: 10.1097/OGX.0000000000000303.


Intestinal parasitic worms affect more than 2 billion people worldwide according to the World Health Organization. Fish-borne parasitic infections are becoming more common with the increasing popularity of sushi, sashimi, Carpaccio, tartare, gefilte, and ceviche. The ingestion of these parasites can cause serve anemia, malabsorption, severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, strong allergic reactions, and gastric ulcers. Knowledge about fish parasites and pregnancy is limited. A literature search on PubMed and Web of Science used the search terms "fish parasites" OR "diphyllobothrium" OR "anisakiasis" OR "pseudoterranova" OR ("food borne parasites" AND "fish") AND "pregnancy" OR "maternal" OR "fetus" OR "fetal" OR "newborn" OR "neonatal" OR "childbirth." No limit was put on the number of years searched. There were 281 publications identified. The abstracts of all of these publications were read. After exclusion of the articles that were not relevant to pregnancy, pregnancy outcome, and fish parasites, there were 24 articles that became the basis of this review. The pathophysiology, altered maternal immunity related to the infection, limited information about fish-borne parasitic infections and pregnancy, and treatments are discussed. The main impact of a fish-borne parasitic infection on pregnant women is anemia and altered immunity, which may increase the risk of a maternal infection. The primary fetal effects include intrauterine growth restriction and preterm delivery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / parasitology
  • Fish Products / adverse effects*
  • Fish Products / parasitology
  • Foodborne Diseases / complications*
  • Foodborne Diseases / parasitology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / complications
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / parasitology
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / parasitology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / etiology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Premature Birth / parasitology