What Parasites Can Live on Sushi?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

I understand that eating Sushi (raw fish) can possibly cause a person to become infected by a parasite from the fish. If this is true- what is the parasite and how might it affect a person? Do you know of any specific cases?

Doctor's response

Anisakiasis is a parasitic disease contracted from infected seafood which is eaten raw or marinated. This is a type of round worm which can be picked up from eating sashimi, sushi, and ceviche.

Symptoms are variable and can range from an acute syndrome with nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhea within 12 hours of eating infected seafood to other problems which can last weeks to months. Anisakiasis can mimic other diseases, such as acute appendicitis, stomach tumors, and inflammatory bowel disease.

This author has seen one case in 14 years in which the worm migrated completely through the small bowel wall causing an acute abdomen and necessitated a laparotomy with resection of the affected segment of intestine.

Thank you for your question.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018

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