Cefas National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for Anisakis

Anisakiasis is the term used to describe infections of humans with larval stages of ascaridoid nematodes within the family Anisakidae and occasionally within the family Raphidascarididae.  The life cycle of ascaridoid nematodes involves the production of eggs by adult females in mammalian hosts which are shed into the water.  Following development in the egg, including at least one moult, second stage larvae hatch into the water column which are eaten by an invertebrate hosts (normally a euphausid crustacean).  Transmission to other hosts, such as fish and cephalopods is possible via ingestion of infected euphausids.

Infections in humans may occur when raw, undercooked or ill-prepared fishery products are consumed in which viable nematode larvae occur.  Whilst the vast majority of infections reported in humans have been associated with Anisakis simplex and Pseudoterranova decipiens, there have been a number of instances were other species of nematodes have been implicated.

Cefas is the designated the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for the fish parasite Anisakis by the Food Standards Agency, the Competent Authority for the purposes of Regulation (EU) 2017/625.

It is the expectation of article 101 of Reg (EU) 2017/625 that the NRL provides scientific and technical assistance to the Official Feed and Food Control Laboratories and the Competent Authority, as appropriate. Furthermore, the NRLs (overseen by the EURLP) are expected to co-ordinate the activities of official laboratories responsible for the analysis of samples in accordance with Article 38 and to organise comparative tests between the official laboratories and ensure an appropriate follow-up of such comparative testing.

We are interested in hearing about experiences with parasitic worms in fish (please visit the Awareness page).