Sushi is the kind of food you either love or… well, don’t. The thought of eating raw fish is just off-putting for some. But those who love it are usually fanatical. And, depending on choices you make, sushi is healthy. It’s packed with protein and low in fat.
And then there are the germaphobes among us. These won’t touch sushi with a ten-meter pole, for fear of being exposed to bacteria and other parasites from uncooked seafood. And they may be right.
According to recent news reports, there is growing risk of ingesting dangerous parasitic worms through eating raw fish. While most cases of parasites previously occurred in Japan, the problem appears to be on the increase in the West as more people acquire the taste for the raw-fish cuisine.
Anisakiasis, or herring worm disease, is a parasitic disease caused by worms that can invade the stomach wall or intestine of humans. It caused by eating raw or undercooked fish or squid that contains larvae of the nematode Anisakis simplex.
Recently, a 32-year-old healthy man from Lisbon, Portugal, developed abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting. After revealing that he had recently eaten, sushi, an endoscopy was performed. This is a tiny camera on the end of a long flexible tube used to examine a person’s digestive tract.
The endoscopy revealed the man as having the worm “firmly attached” to the lining of his stomach. The patient’s symptoms were “immediately” resolved after the parasite was surgically removed.
So, how common are these worms?
As previously mentioned, anisakiasis has been common in Japan but is now spreading to Western countries. Also, cases may be underreported, as not all patients with the symptoms get an endoscopy. Primary care physicians are not likely to perform or order one, at least not on initial symptoms.
Besides abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting, patients can have other symptoms. Some symptoms can be serious and even dangerous. These include digestive bleeding, bowel obstruction and anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction).