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safety logoPathogens can go back and forth between animals and humans.
Wear appropriate protective gloves and clothing.
Don't eat study animals. Period.


The material presented here is based on a universityvirginiaaquaticzoonoses.pdf, stanfordzoonoses.pdf and a talk by Carol Reeb at the 2006 safety update.

Zoonosis: a disease communicable from animals to humans.

This is not a new problem.

As this scene from the Middle Ages illustrates.

animal use and pathogens from middle ages

“Transmission of zoonosis agents through consumption of [aqua]cultured fish is very remote since these products are usually well cooked before being consumed.”
Ghittino et al. (2003)


Cooking solves a lot of the problem, however modern cross cultural exchanges have brought new ideas and challenges:


The most likely pathogen from eating raw fish products is the nematode worm Anisakis.

Anasakis worm in human stomach during endoscopy



Anasakis worm in human stomach during endoscopy -> [up to 2 cm, nearly an inch in size]



harbor seal


The life cycle of the nematode normally takes it through crustaceans to fish and then to marine mammals, such as our harbor seals and possibly seabirds.


When we impose ourselves in this chain the consequences are:

  • acute abdominal pain

  • stomach ulcers

  • 3rd stage larvae can migrate to other tissues forming granulomas [tumors]

Besides nemotodes and tremotodes, bacteria and protozoans can be aquired.

Mycobacterium marinum a.k.a.: fish tuberculosis or swimming pool nodules

skin showing infection

It is not just from eating or working with fish. Many of these pathogens are present in the water when collecting invertebrates or diving.



  • Don't eat study animals - they have not been through strigent safety protocols food grade fish have been.

  • Don't eat any animal raw - macho is just stupid

  • Don't handle animals or immerse hands in raw seawater if you have open wounds

  • Wash hands and/or use gloves

  • Dispose of suspect tissues properly especially if animals are not from Monterey Bay

  • Don't mouth pipette or siphon anything [avoid swallowing seawater when diving]