Have I given us all bilharzia?
February 4, 2016 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently in West Africa. Yesterday I bought fish from the market. The fish in the market is sold live from big basins of water, it's killed, gutted, scaled and chopped in front of the buyer. It's supposed to be sourced from the local fishery but some vendors do cut corners, raise their own fish in ponds, etc. When cooked, the fish had several little black balls, like poppy seeds, just under the skin. One or two (or three or four) were deeper into the flesh. What could those have been? Of course I'm now thinking they were tiny parasitic snails and we're all doomed. Can anyone with a working knowledge of tropical parasites and food safety venture a guess here?
posted by glasseyes to Food & Drink (5 answers total)
This does not match the normal process of bilharzia/Schistosomiasis infection:

See: Aquaculture and schistosomiasis

The snails are not parasitic, the snails live in ponds and rivers (not in fish) and are an intermediate stage host for the parasite, which lives in the snails and then leaves the snails when it is mature and infects humans who wade in or get the water on them.

There are related organisms Clonorchis sinensis and Opisthorchis viverrini which live in fish and are transmittable to humans who eat undercooked fish, but those are found in Asia, not Africa.

See: Schistosomes and Other Trematodes in Medical Microbiology, 4th edition.

There are also similar parasites related to shellfish and water chestnuts.

I am never eating anything ever again.
posted by Jahaza at 9:04 AM on February 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

If the fish was cooked thoroughly, you probably killed off any parasites. Also, schisto doesn't reproduce in animals, while other trematodes do.

On preview - Jahaza.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:07 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am not a parasitologist, but maybe it was black spot disease? The linked PDF suggests it poses no health risk to humans.
posted by penguinliz at 11:11 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I sent this to my father-in-law, a fish health expert. He said: "Probably the fish stage of a digenetic trematode parasite. Not a problem if the fish is cooked." And you cooked the fish. Hope this eases your worries!
posted by elerina at 8:04 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, worries are eased now. Elerina, thanks so much for additional info, it was very reassuring and thanks to your father-in-law as well.
posted by glasseyes at 11:00 AM on February 5, 2016

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