Human health

Clinical infections of Anisakidae larvae within Europe are proportionally rare.  In most cases ingested larvae die and are digested within the gastrointestinal tract.  However, in some cases the parasite migrates into the intestinal wall where it elicits severe inflammatory reactions, and clinical symptoms.  The location of the infection may be gastric, intestinal or ectopic, and presents as: peptic ulcer disease; acute abdomen; a bowel obstruction; or as abdominal pain, either minor or intense, with or without vomiting.  Due to the diversity of possible symptoms, the disease is often misdiagnosed.  Humans are actually an accidental host to such parasites, and, as such, the organism cannot continue its lifecycle following ingestion by a human.  There is no risk of person-to-person infection.

The occurrence of clinical Anisakiasis is generally prevented within European Countries as a result of the control measures currently in place.  However, ingestion of Anisakis can also cause anaphylaxis and/or urticaria in certain patients, regardless of the parasite establishing, or even surviving, within the gastrointestinal tract.  The current control measures, other than direct removal, do not reduce the risk of allergic reaction, as the specific allergens are thermostable.  The epidemiology of allergic reactions to Anisakis is not well established, and is most likely underreported.

Consumer, industry, and medical awareness is key to the prevention of serious allergic reaction to this parasite.          


Audicana, M.T. & Kennedy, M.W., 2008. Anisakis simplex: from obscure infectious worm to inducer of immune hypersensitivity. Clinical microbiology reviews, 21(2), pp.360–79, table of contents. Available at: [Accessed February 15, 2015].

Parts of this section have been adapted from an article released by the European Commission.  (EU, 1998).