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Researchers find dangerous tapeworms in Alaskan salmon

Salmon lovers have a new reason to opt for roasted instead of raw. Scientists have documented that the Japanese broad tapeworm has made its way to the waters of the North Pacific and is thriving among the salmon population there.

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Salmon on ice. Photo illustration

Published in the February edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases the findings of a research team that included staff from Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game and a group of Czech and Slovak academic institutions provides data supporting warnings against eating raw fish, and particularly raw salmon.

Previously the parasite — known officially as Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense — was thought to be limited to the Pacific waters near Japan. However, the tapeworm has been found not only in salmon and other fish in the Northern Pacific, but also in predators such as wolves and bears.

“Our main intent is to alert parasitologists and medical doctors about the potential danger of human infection with this long tapeworm resulting from consumption of infected salmon imported — on ice — from the Pacific coast of North America and elsewhere,” the researchers wrote.

The scientists examined salmon and rainbow trout and found the Japanese broad tapeworm in a pink salmon collected in Resurrection Creek near Hope, AK.

“This report provides additional evidence that salmon from the Pacific coast of North America may represent a source of human infection,” according to the researchers.

“Because Pacific salmon are frequently exported unfrozen, on ice, plerocercoids may survive transport and cause human infections in areas where they are not endemic, such as China, Europe, New Zealand, and middle and eastern United States.”

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