Sushi lovers beware, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington found that the number of parasitic worms found in raw fish has increased globally by 283 times since 1970.
The Anisakis simplex, or ‘herring worm’ as it’s more commonly known is a type of parasitic worm that hides inside the flesh of a variety of marine fish and squid species. The herring worm initially hatches in the ocean and infects small crustaceans, shrimp or crabs. Larger fish then eat those infected crustaceans and the worms transfer into the fish. The process then continues until it eventually gets to the point where we humans consume the infected fish.
If a human accidentally eats a fish that has been infected with a herring worm, it could lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Luckily, in most cases the parasite dies within a few days of digesting it and the symptoms disappear.
Unfortunately, marine animals aren’t as lucky. If marine mammals are infected with the parasite they could be forced to live with it for a number of years, causing more serious health issues further down the line.
According to Aquatic and fishery scientist Chelsea Wood, this might be a reason why certain species of marine life struggle to bounce back after coming close to extinction.
“It’s not often considered that parasites might be the reason that some marine mammal populations are failing to bounce back,” says Wood.
“I hope this study encourages people to look at intestinal parasites as a potential cap on the population growth of endangered and threatened marine mammals.”