History

In the 1950s, a small number of people in Holland were admitted to hospital with acute abdominal pains. In sections of resected oedematous pieces of digestive tract, a worm, unknown to the medical profession, was found. All affected persons had consumed a Dutch speciality - a very lightly salted herring - shortly before becoming ill. In Japan, cases of atypical intestinal diseases were reported in the late 1950s. When the first Dutch publication appeared in 1960 (Thiel et al. 1960), the Japanese recognized the cause of an old problem, and the disease was acknowledged as a public health problem in Japan.

The worm seen in histological sections is a nematode larva, genus Anisakis, found not only in herring, but also in many marine fishes and squids. Based on its generic name, this new human disease became known as anisakiasis in English, but anisakiosis is recommended (see Veterinary Parasitology, 29: 229326). The initial publication of the Dutch work led to great and varied research efforts in several countries, mainly in Holland and Japan. The basic biological knowledge - its identity, biology, life cycle, and distribution - were needed, but also new cases, infectivity and behaviour in abnormal hosts, experimental infection and the clinical picture, and host reaction were described. As consumption of live larvae is a prerequisite, it became important to study their tolerance to temperature, salts, acids, and other factors, in order to render them harmless. In the early years the nematode was named Anisakis sp. larva, but gradually it was accepted as the larva of A. simplex. The accumulated knowledge on Anisakis and anisakiosis was reviewed by Oshima (1972) and Smith and Wootten (1978). A number of Japanese publications on biological data, diagnosis, and clinical aspects were edited by Ishikura and Namiki (1989) and Ishikura and Kikuchi (1990). The latter two books provide many references to Japanese literature on the subject.

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