Anisakis sensitization in different population groups and public health impact: A systematic review

PLoS One. 2018 Sep 20;13(9):e0203671. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0203671. eCollection 2018.


Anisakis simplex spp. sensitization rates have increased worldwide, with a significant impact on health-care systems. To date, no clear-cut diagnostic criteria and laboratory algorithm have been established, so anisakiasis still represents an under-reported health problem whose clinical manifestations, when present, mimic the much more common allergic and digestive disorders. Aim of the study was to systematically review the available literature on the prevalence of sensitization against Anisakis in the general population and in specific population groups, taking into account the impact of the different available diagnostic techniques on the epidemiological data. Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement, relevant papers reporting Anisakis sensitization epidemiological data were found covering a period ranging from 1996 to February 2017. Overall, 41 studies comprising 31,701 participants from eleven countries were included in the qualitative synthesis. General asymptomatic population resulted sensitized to Anisakis in 0.4 to 27.4% of cases detected by means of indirect ELISA or ImmunoCAP specific IgE detection, and between 6.6% and 19.6% of the samples by Skin prick test (SPT). Occupationally exposed workers (fishermen, fishmongers and workers of fish-processing industries) documented specific IgE between 11.7% and 50% of cases, whereas SPT positivity ranged between 8% and 46.4%. Symptomatic allergic patients to any kind of allergen were found to be positive to Anisakis specific IgE detection between 0.0% (in children with mastocytosis) to 81.3% (among adults with shellfish allergy). Results highlighted that hypersensitivity prevalence estimates varied widely according to geographical area, characteristics of the population studied, diagnostic criteria and laboratory assays. Further studies are needed to overcome the documented misdiagnosis by improving the diagnostic approach and, consequently, providing more affordable estimates in order to address public health interventions on populations at high risk of exposure to Anisakis and to tailor health services related to specific groups.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anisakis / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Helminth / analysis*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Hypersensitivity / parasitology
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data


  • Antibodies, Helminth

Grants and funding

No funding received.