Research – Estimating the distribution of norovirus in individual oysters

Science Direct

Food Borne Illness - Norovirus -CDC Photo

Image CDC

Norovirus in oysters is a significant food safety risk. A recent ISO detection method allows for reliable and repeatable estimates of norovirus concentrations in pooled samples, but there is insufficient data to estimate a distribution of copies per animal from this. The spread of norovirus accumulated across individual oysters is useful for risk assessment models. Six sets of thirty individual Crassostrea gigas oysters were tested for norovirus concentration levels by reverse-transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR): three from a commercial harvest site, and three post-depuration. Five sets had norovirus GII means above the limit of quantification (LOQ), and one below the LOQ, but above the limit of detection. No norovirus GI was detected in pooled tests, and individual oysters were not tested for norovirus GI. Depuration was shown to reduce the mean concentration of GII copies, but not to affect the shape of the distribution around the mean. Deconvoluting the uncertainty of the method, the coefficient of variation was stationary (0.45 ± 0.2). The best fit distribution was either a lognormal distribution or a gamma. Multiplying these distributions by the weight of oyster digestive tissues gave an estimate for the count mean. This was used as the parameter λ in three compound Poisson distributions: Poisson-lognormal, Poisson-gamma, and Poisson-K. No model was found to fit better than the others, with advantages for each. All three could be used in future risk assessments. Preliminary validation of sampling uncertainty using repeated testing data from a previous study suggests that these results have predictive power.


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