A quantitative risk assessment for human Taenia solium exposure from home slaughtered pigs in European countries

Marina Meester, Arno Swart, Hanna Deng, Annika van Roon, Chiara Trevisan, Pierre Dorny, Sarah Gabriël, M Viera-Pinto, Maria Vang Johansen, Joke van der Giessen

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    Background: Taenia solium, a zoonotic tapeworm, is responsible for about a third of all preventable epilepsy human cases in endemic regions. In Europe, adequate biosecurity of pig housing and meat inspection practices have decreased the incidence of T. solium taeniosis and cysticercosis. Pigs slaughtered at home may have been raised in suboptimal biosecurity conditions and slaughtered without meat inspection. As a result, consumption of undercooked pork from home slaughtered pigs could pose a risk for exposure to T. solium. The aim of this study was to quantify the risk of human T. solium exposure from meat of home slaughtered pigs, in comparison to controlled slaughtered pigs, in European countries. A quantitative microbial risk assessment model (QMRA) was developed and porcine cysticercosis prevalence data, the percentage of home slaughtered pigs, meat inspection sensitivity, the cyst distribution in pork and pork consumption in five European countries, Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Romania and Spain, were included as variables in the model. This was combined with literature about cooking habits to estimate the number of infected pork portions eaten per year in a country.

    Results: The results of the model showed a 13.83 times higher prevalence of contaminated pork portions from home slaughtered pigs than controlled slaughtered pigs. This difference is brought about by the higher prevalence of cysticercosis in pigs that are home raised and slaughtered. Meat inspection did not affect the higher exposure from pork that is home slaughtered. Cooking meat effectively lowered the risk of exposure to T. solium-infected pork.

    Conclusions: This QMRA showed that there is still a risk of obtaining an infection with T. solium due to consumption of pork, especially when pigs are reared and slaughtered at home, using data of five European countries that reported porcine cysticercosis cases. We propose systematic reporting of cysticercosis cases in slaughterhouses, and in addition molecularly confirming suspected cases to gain more insight into the presence of T. solium in pigs and the risk for humans in Europe. When more data become available, this QMRA model could be used to evaluate human exposure to T. solium in Europe and beyond.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number82
    JournalParasites and Vectors
    Issue number1
    Number of pages18
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • Abattoirs
    • Animals
    • Cysticercosis/epidemiology
    • Europe
    • Food Safety/methods
    • Humans
    • Models, Statistical
    • Prevalence
    • Red Meat/parasitology
    • Risk Assessment
    • Swine Diseases/epidemiology
    • Swine/parasitology
    • Taenia solium
    • Zoonoses/epidemiology


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