Infections from roundworms significant worldwide

Inadequate hygienic conditions and improper Trichinella testing  lead to outbreaks of illness worldwide, occasionally affecting more than 100 persons. Owing to mandatory Trichinella testing introduced in the whole of Germany in 1937 as well as controlled husbandry conditions in a majority of pig populations, trichinellosis outbreaks are now rare in Germany. "In Germany, trichinellosis outbreaks are usually triggered by the consumption of raw wild boar meat", explains Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). "For this reason, wild boars should invariably be tested for this muscle parasite and products made from wild boar meat should not be eaten raw." At the 14th International Conference on Trichinellosis taking place at the BfR in Berlin-Marienfelde from 14 to 18 September 2015, more than 120 experts from 35 countries will discuss new research results on the diagnosis, occurrence and control of roundworms. The scientific conference is organised in cooperation with the German Veterinary Association (DVG), the Free University of Berlin (FUB) and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).

Trichinellosis (synonym trichinosis) is a dangerous food-borne infectious disease which affects several thousand people worldwide every year. It is caused by roundworms of the genus Trichinella. Although testing for Trichinella in pigs, horses and wild boars is compulsory in the European Union, trichinellosis outbreaks in Germany, while rare, do occur in regular intervals of several years. These are mostly caused by the consumption of insufficiently cooked game meat, raw wild boar products as well as imported raw sausages and ham.

Risk areas in Europe include, for example, Romania, Bulgaria as well as the Baltic States. The main problem arises when, during private slaughtering, no testing for Trichinella is conducted at all or not in accordance with the regulations before raw products intended for human consumption are made from this meat.

Trichinella larvae are predominantly found in the meat of pigs and wild boars, though they can also be present in horses, bears and seals. The animals are typically infected when they eat rotten carcases. Through the consumption of raw or insufficiently heated meat or products made from the meat of affected animals, the larvae contained in the flesh of these animals can be ingested by humans and cause illness. Raw pig sausage from production facilities with closed husbandry systems pose, in contrast to raw sausage from wild boar meat, a negligible risk. In the early stages, the signs of infection are exhaustion, sleeplessness, diarrhoea and vomiting. After about one to two weeks, the typical symptoms such as hardening of the muscles, muscle pain and water retention (oedemas) in the face occur.

Trichinella larvae are safely killed during boiling and frying if the meat  reaches a core temperature of 70 °C for at least 2 minutes so that the colour on the inside is grey.

At the International Conference on Trichinellosis, comprehensive sequencing data on all so far known Trichinella species will be presented for the first time ever. Another important feature of the conference will be a discussion of the results of genome and proteome research. The aim will be to gain a more detailed understanding of the links between genetic, structural and functional properties of these parasites, to optimise diagnostic methods and to throw more light on the epidemiological dimension.

For further information on trichinosis (in German), go to: (PDF file,80.21 KB)

Link to the conference programme in English: (PDF file,1.27 MB)

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.


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