Parasites of fish and risks to public health

Rev Sci Tech. 1997 Aug;16(2):652-60. doi: 10.20506/rst.16.2.1059.


A multitude of parasites have been reported in fish, but only a few species are capable of infecting humans. The most important of the helminths acquired by humans from fish are the anisakid nematodes (particularly Anisakis simplex and Pseudoterranova decipiens), cestodes of the genus Diphyllobothrium and digenetic trematodes of the families Heterophyidae, Opisthorchiidae and Nanophyetidae. Seafood-associated infections by acanthocephalans are rarely reported in humans. All of the helminths mentioned above are associated with social-cultural and behavioural factors, in particular the consumption of raw or undercooked seafood. Measures can be taken during harvesting, processing or post-processing (e.g., by the consumer) to mitigate the risks of infection. The seafood industry and government authorities can apply various programmes to reduce these risks, including good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) systems. Such measures may include avoiding particular harvest areas, sizes of fish, or even particular species of fish. The method of capture, handling and storage of the catch can directly affect the quality of the seafood with regard to the presence and numbers of parasites. The extent of processing--including heading and gutting, candling and trimming--and the type of product derived (fresh, frozen, salted or pickled) can all contribute to the control of the risks posed by helminths. The most effective means of killing the parasites are either freezing or heat inactivation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fish Diseases / transmission*
  • Fishes
  • Food Handling / standards
  • Helminthiasis / etiology*
  • Helminthiasis / prevention & control
  • Helminthiasis, Animal / prevention & control
  • Helminthiasis, Animal / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Public Health*
  • Risk Factors