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Passage of a Coccidial Parasite (Eimeria acervulina) through the Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica)

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Human illness resulting from the consumption of raw oysters is well documented for bacterial and viral pathogens but not for coccidial parasites. This study explores the passage of coccidial parasites through and the viability of these parasites in the Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. Because both Cryptosporidium and Toxoplasma are human parasites and are not safe to handle, we chose to work with a close relative, Eimeria acervulina, as a surrogate. This parasite was analyzed in chickens. Oysters were found to concentrate coccidial oocysts within 6 h of exposure in a seawater tank. After 24 h, oysters still contained viable oocysts, but by 48 h, few oysters contained viable oocysts. No oysters were found to harbor oocysts 72 or 96 h after exposure to oocysts. After oysters had been exposed to oocysts for 24 h in one saltwater tank and then transferred to a clean saltwater tank for 48 h, their feces tested positive for viable oocysts. We conclude that coccidial parasites are not pathogenic to oysters, but move through oysters in just 1 day. Unless contaminated waters continuously carry oocysts, raw oysters are unlikely to pose a threat to human health through the carriage of coccidial parasites.


Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: School of Occupational and Public Health, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5B 2K3 2: Vetech Laboratories Inc., 131 Malcolm Road, Geulph, Ontario, Canada N1K 1AS

Publication date: April 1, 2003

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