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J Infect Dis. 2000 May;181 Suppl 2:S360-6.

Detection of norwalk-like virus in shellfish implicated in illness.

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USFDA Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory, Dauphin Island, AL 36528, USA.


In the 1990s, Norwalk-like viruses (NLVs) were identified in patient specimens as the primary pathogen associated with shellfish-borne gastroenteritis in the United States. Identification of these viruses from implicated shellfish has been difficult due to inefficient recovery of viruses, natural polymerase chain reaction (PCR) inhibitors in shellfish, and low virus contamination. Recent improvements to the method of detecting NLVs in shellfish include enhanced processing of virus and shellfish samples, application of nested PCR and nucleotide sequencing, and increased knowledge of NLV genetic diversity. Using a newly developed and sensitive method, an NLV G2 strain was identified in 2 oyster samples implicated in a 1998 California outbreak involving 171 cases. NLV capsid primers demonstrated a greater specificity of PCR detection than did polymerase primers. The 175-base viral capsid nucleotide sequences derived from oysters were 100% identical to those derived from a patient stool sample. This finding supports the epidemiologic associations indicating that contaminated shellfish serve as the vehicle for NLV transmission.

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