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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania » Eastern Regional Research Center » Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research » Research » Research Project #430252

Research Project: Development of Detection and Intervention Technologies for Bacterial and Viral Pathogens Affecting Shellfish

Location: Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research

Project Number: 8072-42000-081-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jan 31, 2016
End Date: Jan 30, 2021

The safety of aquaculture products, particularly molluscan shellfish, is jeopardized by Vibrio and enteric virus contamination and the lack of effective processing interventions. Among the foods of greatest concern are raw or lightly-cooked oysters and clams, which result in substantial health risks to consumers. The objectives of this project are designed to: identify practical intervention methods to eliminate vibrios in shellfish using bacteriophages and Bdellovibrio-and like-organisms (Vibrio predatory bacteria) and to develop and validate methods for enteric virus detection and elimination from shellfish. 1: Develop and evaluate intervention and control strategies for Vibrio species, with specific emphasis on the identification, characterization and application of bacteriophage to remediate shellfish mortalities in hatchery settings, and for use in commercial shellfish processing. 2: Evaluate a modified depuration process with marine Bdellovibrio and related bacteria to eliminate Vibrio in market oysters. 3: Develop and validate technologies to improve current virus detection and testing methods, including distinguishing infectious versus non-infectious virus; technologies for virus replication, for example, development of a cell culture propagation method for human norovirus; virus surrogates; and long-term virus persistence. 4: Develop and validate emerging technologies for inactivation of enteric virus-contaminated shellfish and other foods using novel applications of high pressure and laser-induced resonance energy.

Under objective 1, we will seek to reduce Vibrio-associated mortalities in larval oyster hatcheries by 50% using a mixture of bacteriophages (phages), and to reduce human pathogenic vibrios in market oysters using a second mixture of phages. Under a CRADA with Intralytix, Inc. and Oregon State University, ARS will continue efforts to commercialize this phage treatment against the larval shellfish pathogens V. tubiashii and V. coralliilyticus for use in shellfish hatcheries. Phages that we already isolated and identified will be further characterized genetically, morphologically, and mechanistically as potential candidates for commercialization. At the completion of these studies, efforts will shift to an evaluation of phages against the human pathogens V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus in market-sized oysters. Oysters will be challenged with streptomycin-resistant strains of V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus, allowed to bioaccumulate these vibrios in tanks of seawater and then treated with phages to determine the Vibrio reduction rates in the shellfish. Under objective 2, we will evaluate a modified depuration process with predatory bacteria known as Bacteriovorax species (recently renamed Halobacteriovorax) to reduce or eliminate Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus in market-sized oysters. Work will be performed using Halobacteriovorax strains that we isolated and partially characterized from the U.S. Atlantic, Gulf, and Hawaiian coasts. Concurrent with the above research will be studies to better characterize Halobacteriovorax and related bacteria that inhibit pathogenic vibrios and other bacteria. Under objective 3, we will develop and validate our porcine gastric mucin-magnetic beads (PGM-MBs) assay to distinguish infectious from non-infectious human noroviruses (NoV), determine if a correlation exists between long-term persistence of NoV within oysters and MS-2 phages at different water temperatures, and attempt to develop an in vitro replication system for NoV. The degree to which MS-2 phages mimic NoV in their ability to remain viable within shellfish and survive chlorination levels found in sewage treatment will be determined. The persistence of NoV in shellfish, oyster hemocytes, and in sewage effluent will be evaluated along with potential interventions to eliminate viral contamination. Under objective 4, we will seek to overcome barriers to the widespread commercial use of high pressure processing (HPP) for oysters and identify substances, like ozone or copper ions, that may inactivate NoV during HPP treatment. We will also evaluate the use of modified atmosphere packaging for shellfish using “oxygen scavenger” technology to enhance freshness of HPP-treated oysters during transit. We will seek to understand how laser induced resonance energy can destroy small icosahedral viruses, like NoV. This work will be performed in collaboration with researchers at Delaware State University and the University of Maryland.