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Development of Procedures to Distinguish Between Human and Animal Faecal Contamination in Shellfisheries

Institutions
Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences (CEFAS)
Start date
1999
End date
2002
Objective
This research project aims to develop methods to distinguish between animal and human wastes contaminating molluscan shellfish.

Microbiological and chemical methods of typing faecal contamination of shellfish tissue will be developed and applied during this research.

The methods include speciation of FRNA bacteriophages, detection of bacteriophages of Bacteroides fragilis, detection of human adenoviruses, detection of HH1 (human specific) marker in E. coli , gas chromatography mass spectrometry detection of sterols and gas chromatography mass spectrometry detection of caffeine.

A series of method validation and evaluation analyses will be completed against panels of human influents/effluents and animal wastes.

Commercially produced oysters and mussels originating from shellfish growing waters representative of all classification categories as defined in European Directive 91/492/EEC will be tested using the procedure.

Selected methods that show promise, will then be applied to shellfish from two shellfish harvesting areas in a field survey.

More information
During the process of filter feeding, bivalve molluscan shellfish such as oysters and mussels, can accumulate human pathogens originating from sewage polluted waters. The major pathogens that cause outbreaks of sickness and diarrhoea in the community are viruses, particularly Norovirus (NV).

It is not possible to detect these viruses in shellfish without the use of technologically complex molecular methods, which are time consuming, difficult and expensive. Therefore faecal coliforms and E. coli have been adopted as indicator organisms to assess the quality of shellfish flesh and to predict the risk of exposure to pathogenic viruses.

However, E. coli and faecal coliforms are found in both human and animal wastes. Existing methods for counting these bacteria do not distinguish between bacteria of human and animal origin.

To help assess the potential risk to the consumer, and to assist in alleviating the problem of organic contamination of shellfisheries, it is important to know if the pollutant is of human sewage or agricultural origin.

Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the Food Standards Agency Research webpage.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project number
B05005
Categories
Parasites
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants
Escherichia coli
Commodities
Seafood