Paragonimiasis is a foodborne trematode infection that affects 23 million people, mainly in Asia. Lung fluke infections lead frequently to chronic cough with fever and hemoptysis, and are often confused with lung cancer or tuberculosis. Paragonimiasis can be efficiently treated with praziquantel, but diagnosis is often delayed, and patients are frequently treated for other conditions. To improve diagnosis, we selected five Paragonimus kellicotti proteins based on transcriptional abundance, recognition by patient sera, and conservation among trematodes and expressed them as His-fusion proteins in Escherichia coli . Sequences for these proteins have 76–99% identity with amino acid sequences for orthologs in the genomes of Paragonimus westermani , Paragonimus heterotremus , and Paragonimus miyazakii . Immunohistology studies showed that antibodies raised to four recombinant proteins bound to the tegument of adult P. kellicotti worms, at the parasite host interface. Only a known egg antigen was absent from the tegument but present in developing and mature eggs. We evaluated the diagnostic potential of these antigens by Western blot with sera from patients with paragonimiasis (from MO and the Philippines), fascioliasis, and schistosomiasis, and with sera from healthy North American controls. Two recombinant proteins (a cysteine protease and a myoglobin) showed the highest sensitivity and specificity as diagnostic antigens, and they detected antibodies in sera from paragonimiasis patients with early or mature infections. In contrast, antibodies to egg yolk ferritin appeared to be specific marker for patients with adult fluke infections that produce eggs. Our study has identified and localized antigens that are promising for serodiagnosis of human paragonimiasis. Supplementary Information The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s00436-020-06990-z.