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Use of FRNA Bacteriophages To Indicate the Risk of Norovirus Contamination in Irish Oysters

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Male-specific (F) RNA bacteriophages have been proposed as indicators for human enteric viruses in shellfish. This study compared the use of Escherichia coli and FRNA bacteriophages to indicate the presence and level of noroviruses in Crassostrea gigas. A total of 167 samples from category A and B shellfish harvesting areas were analyzed for E. coli and FRNA bacteriophages by standard methods and for noroviruses (NoV) by using a previously described real-time PCR assay. FRNA bacteriophage and NoV levels in shellfish showed a seasonal trend and were elevated during the winter period (October through March). Conversely, E. coli levels did not reflect this seasonal trend. Categorizing samples on the basis of E. coli levels according to European Union regulatory limits failed to indicate the occurrence or level of NoV in shellfish. However, by grouping shellfish samples on the basis of FRNA bacteriophage levels a clear correlation was observed with NoV levels. The use of FRNA bacteriophages to predict the occurrence of NoV in shellfish could provide improved public health protection and should be considered when developing risk management procedures for shellfisheries.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Marine Institute, Rinville, Oranmore, Co. Galway, Ireland 2: Marine Institute, Rinville, Oranmore, Co. Galway, Ireland;, Email:

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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