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Investigation of F-RNA bacteriophage as a tool in re-opening Australian oyster growing areas following sewage spills


Torok, VA and Hodgson, KR and Jolley, J and Turnbull, A, Investigation of F-RNA bacteriophage as a tool in re-opening Australian oyster growing areas following sewage spills, Food and Environmental Virology, 13 pp. 201-217. ISSN 1867-0334 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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© Crown 2021

DOI: doi:10.1007/s12560-021-09462-4


Oysters contaminated with human enteric viruses from sewage are implicated in foodborne outbreaks globally. Bacteriophages have been identified as potential indicators for these viruses, but have not been used in shellfish management outside of the USA. This study aimed to determine the background levels of F-RNA phage in five Australian oyster growing areas with a history of sewage spills and closures, over an 18-month period. In addition, oysters from five growing areas impacted by adverse sewage events were investigated for F-RNA phage, Escherichia coli, norovirus (NoV) and hepatitis A virus (HAV). F-RNA phage ≤ 60 pfu/100 gm shellfish flesh were found to represent a conservative background level in the surveyed areas. Following two of the five sewage spills, elevated phage levels were observed in most sample sites less than 4 days post spill. By 7 days, most sites from all events had phage < 30 pfu/100 gm. NoV was detected in day 1 and day 6 samples from one event when all phage were ≤ 30 pfu/100 gm. NoV was also detected in a day 3 sample from another event with < 30 phage pfu/100 gm, however, multiple replicate samples had elevated phage levels. The results of this study add evidence on the potential use of F-RNA phage as a tool in early re-opening of oyster harvest areas post sewage spills. However, it also highlights the need to better understand situations where phage testing may be ineffectual, and the importance of sampling at multiple sites and over multiple time points, to effectively capture evidence of contamination.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:shellfsh management, food safety, foodborne viruses, norovirus, hepatitis A virus, Escherichia coli bacteriophage MS2
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Food sciences
Research Field:Food safety, traceability, certification and authenticity
Objective Division:Animal Production and Animal Primary Products
Objective Group:Fisheries - aquaculture
Objective Field:Aquaculture oysters
UTAS Author:Turnbull, A (Dr Alison Turnbull)
ID Code:142960
Year Published:2021
Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
Deposited On:2021-02-18
Last Modified:2021-10-06
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