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Int J Food Microbiol. 2003 May 25;83(1):75-85.

Comparative analysis of viral pathogens and potential indicators in shellfish.

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Department of Microbiology, Biology School, University of Barcelona, Diagonal Ave., 645 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


Shellfish can be responsible of outbreaks of infectious diseases and current health measures do not guarantee the absence of viral pathogens in this product. Here we examine the presence of pathogenic viruses and potential indicators in shellfish in a comparative analysis.Sixty shellfish samples collected in three areas with different levels of faecal contamination were analysed for Escherichia coli, total coliforms, Clostridium perfringens, somatic coliphages, F-specific phages of RNA (F-RNA), bacteriophages infecting Bacteroides fragilis RYC2056, human adenovirus, enterovirus and hepatitis A virus (HAV). Viruses were eluted in a glycine buffer at pH 10. The overall percentage of viral pathogens detected was 47% for human adenoviruses, 19% for enteroviruses and 24% for HAV. Since all the samples positive for enterovirus and HAV were also positives for human adenovirus, the latter may be considered useful as a molecular index of viral contamination in shellfish. No significant differences in the bioaccumulation of bacteria and bacteriophages for oysters or mussels were observed. It was found that the probability of detection of any of the pathogenic virus decreases as the temperature of shellfish growing waters increases. However, the probability of detecting viruses increases when phages of B. fragilis are found. Although more data are needed in order to fulfil the need of viral indicators for controlling the presence of human viruses in shellfish, the obtained results indicate that phages infecting B. fragilis RYC2056 could be a suitable group of bacteriophages to be used as an indicator of the presence of viruses in shellfish.

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