Comparison of anisakid infection levels between two species of Atlantic mackerel (Scomber colias and S. scombrus) off the Atlantic Portuguese coast


  • Maria João Santos Faculty of Sciences of University of Porto, Biology Department, Animal Pathology Laboratory, - CIIMAR/CIMAR - Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, University of Porto
  • Ricardo Castro Faculty of Sciences of University of Porto, Biology Department, Animal Pathology Laboratory, - CIIMAR/CIMAR - Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, University of Porto
  • Francisca Cavaleiro Faculty of Sciences of University of Porto, Biology Department, Animal Pathology Laboratory, - CIIMAR/CIMAR - Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, University of Porto
  • Luis Rangel Faculty of Sciences of University of Porto, Biology Department, Animal Pathology Laboratory, - CIIMAR/CIMAR - Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, University of Porto
  • Harry Wilhelm Palm Rostock University, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Aquaculture und Sea Ranching



anisakids, Anisakis pegreffii, Anisakis simplex (s.s.), Atlantic mackerels, Portuguese coast, molecular identification, food safety


Anisakiasis is a problematic zoonotic infection associated with the consumption of raw or undercooked fish. Atlantic mackerel (Scomber colias) is of high commercial interest in Portugal and has been reported as a common host of Anisakisspp. In this study, the occurrence of anisakids is evaluated in S. colias and also Scomber scombrus, and the potential zoonotic risk associated with consumption of these two fishes is evaluated according to the recorded infection levels. These were found to be high for both fish species: a mean intensity and prevalence of 21.7 worms/fish and 85% for S. colias, and 16.4 worms/fish and 83.3% for S. scombrus, respectively. No correlation was detected between anisakid intensity and host total length, total weight, condition factor, and hepatosomatic and gonadosomatic indices for both fish species, but significantly higher intensity values were detected for more mature S. scombrus, i.e. fish recording a higher gonadosomatic index. Molecular tools allowed the identification of two species of Anisakis, A. simplex (s.s.) and A. pegreffii. They differed in their occurrence: in S. colias the prevalence of A. simplex (s.s.) was 18% and that of A. pegreffii was 82%, whereas in S. scombrus the prevalence of A. simplex (s.s.) was 73% and that of A. pegreffii was 27%. Occasionally, worms of Hysterothylacium aduncum were identified for both fish. The different infection levels of the two Anisakisspecies in both hosts off the Portuguese coast raise the hypothesis of a different life cycle at the level of the invertebrate intermediate host. S. colias lives in deeper waters than S. scombrus, and the differences found in infection levels suggest that A. pegreffii main first intermediate host also live in deeper waters, compared with A. simplex (s.s.) main first intermediate host. The higher infection levels of A. simplex (s.s.) (most infectious to humans) in S. scombrus suggest that its consumption when slightly cooked, as in grilled fish (so popular in Portugal), could be more problematic for the development of anisakiasis in humans than the consumption of S. colias and thus be of potential public health concern.


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How to Cite

Santos MJ, Castro R, Cavaleiro F, Rangel L, Palm HW. Comparison of anisakid infection levels between two species of Atlantic mackerel (Scomber colias and S. scombrus) off the Atlantic Portuguese coast. scimar [Internet]. 2017Jun.30 [cited 2023Feb.2];81(2):179-85. Available from:




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