Anisakidae and Raphidascaridae are marine nematodes present in a wide range of fish hosts, which may cause gastro-intestinal complaints and/or allergy in human, in addition to economic losses for the industry. Data regarding the presence of these parasites in fish for the Belgian market is currently missing; therefore, our aim was to investigate the presence and intensity of ascaridoids in a wide range of commercially fish species. A total of 415 fish samples, belonging to 36 different fish species, were collected from a Belgian whole-sale company. Ascaridoid larvae from the viscera (if present) and the muscles were collected by enzymatic digestion and the prevalence, median intensity, mean number of larvae per 100 g infected muscle, and localisation were determined. An overall prevalence of 53% [95%-CI: 42-63%] in the viscera and 27% [95%-CI: 23-32%] in the muscles was observed. Infection in the muscles varied between the fish species; no larvae were detected in 13 fish species, while a high prevalence (>78%) was observed in pollack, halibut, and gurnard. Most samples originated from the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, with the highest prevalence in the muscles observed in the Barents & Norwegian Sea (65% [95%-CI: 38-86]). Muscle samples were, if possible, divided in an anterior region, belly flap, medial region, and posterior region, with the most infections and larvae found in the belly flaps. In all samples, a total of 2569 larvae were recovered, with 1594 larvae originating from the viscera and 975 from the muscles; with an average of two larvae per 100 g infected fillet detected. Larvae were morphologically identified, and a subgroup was further confirmed using PCR/RFLP, resulting ultimately in the identification of Anisakis simplex s.s. (1853 larvae), A. pegreffii (137), A. simplex/pegreffii hybrid genotype (38), Pseudoterranova decipiens (160) and Hysterothylacium aduncum (380). This study demonstrates that ascaridoid larvae are highly prevalent in different fish species on the Belgian market.
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