A survey of zoonotic nematodes of commercial key fish species from major European fishing grounds: Introducing the FP7 PARASITE exposure assessment study

Arne Levsen, Cecilie S. Svanevik, Paolo Cipriani, Simonetta Mattiucci, Mélanie Gay, Lee C. Hastie, Ivana Bušelić, Ivona Mladineo, Horst Karl, Ute Ostermeyer, Kurt Buchmann, Dánjal-Petur Højgaard, Ángel F. González, Santiago Pascual, Graham J. Pierce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Harvesting and exploiting limited fisheries resources in a sustainable manner also implies achieving maximum added value from the raw material. However, the presence of parasites in the products may adversely affect consumer perception and/or pose a direct health hazard. As a major stepping-stone of the PARASITE project, an epidemiological survey was carried out to provide the basis for analysis and prediction of consumer exposure risk due to the presence of anisakid nematodes in fish from European wild-catch fisheries. The project consisted of nine separate workpackages (WP) where the exposure risk assessment survey was organized within WP2. The surveillance task also provided the data or samples needed for data management and sample storage (WP3, Biobank), molecular and genetic parasite species identification (WP4), and statistical modelling and inference (WP8). In total 17,760 fish belonging to 16 teleost species were examined for anisakids, with special emphasis on economically and ecologically important species such as Atlantic mackerel, herring, European hake, Atlantic cod and anchovy. The target fish species were sampled at four major European fishing areas including the Barents Sea, North Sea, Baltic Sea, Grand Sole Bank, waters off NW Spain and Portugal, central and western parts of the Mediterranean Sea, and the Adriatic Sea. Thus, the survey represents the largest and most comprehensive epidemiological data compilation of anisakids ever generated in terms of geographical range as well as number of fish host species and sample size. An important requirement of the survey was the use of commonly accepted nematode detection methods, i.e. the UV-press method or artificial digestion, to quantify infection level and spatial distribution of anisakid larvae in the target fish species. The basic layout, set-up and principles of the method, along with a discussion of possible source of errors are described. Additionally, the molecular and genetic markers which were used to identify and characterize different species and populations of anisakids from the targeted fish host species and geographical areas, are reviewed as well. Some basic parasite infection characteristics of each fish host species, and any relationships with the presumably most important infection predictors, i.e. fish host body size and fishing locality, are presented and discussed. Emphasis is put on anisakid occurrence in the flesh of the fish. Based on the findings, a graphical exposure risk profile is introduced, including fish species or products thereof, which due to common processing or preparation practices, are at highest risk to act as source of anisakiasis in Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-21
Number of pages18
JournalFisheries Research
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • EU fisheries
  • Zoonotic parasites
  • Surveillance
  • Anisakis spp.
  • Atlantic
  • Mediterranean


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