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Trichinella in horses: a low frequency infection with high human risk.

Veterinary Parasitology 2000 December 2
After the initial report in 1976 of a trichinellosis epidemic caused by the consumption of infected horsemeat, 12 other outbreaks have been described in Europe. Since the first serious human outbreak several experiments have confirmed the susceptibility of horses to Trichinella species and the rapid disappearance of specific antibodies in this host that prevents the use of serological methods for routine screening. A review of the distribution of parasite burdens in muscles of naturally or experimentally infected horses indicates that the tongue is the most likely sample to contain detectable numbers of Trichinella larvae in low level infections. Requirements for testing of horsemeat are specified in legislation of the European Union, and other recommendations are published elsewhere. The EEC directives have evolved into very specific requirements which specify the testing of at least 5g of tongue, masseter or diaphragm per horse using a pooled digestion assay. More recently, France has revised the requirement for sample size to 10g for horsemeat originating from countries with high prevalence of Trichinella. To address the continuing outbreaks of human trichinellosis due to infected horsemeat, the development and implementation of a quality assurance system for testing is being considered.

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