Research – Occurrence of Human Enteric Viruses in Shellfish along the Production and Distribution Chain in Sicily, Italy


Contamination of bivalve mollusks with human pathogenic viruses represents a recognized food safety risk. Thus, monitoring programs for shellfish quality along the entire food chain could help to finally preserve the health of consumers. The aim of the present study was to provide up-to-date data on the prevalence of enteric virus contamination along the shellfish production and distribution chain in Sicily. To this end, 162 batches of mollusks were collected between 2017 and 2019 from harvesting areas, depuration and dispatch centers (n = 63), restaurants (n = 6) and retail stores (n = 93) distributed all over the island. Samples were processed according to ISO 15216 standard method, and the presence of genogroup GI and GII norovirus (NoV), hepatitis A and E viruses (HAV, HEV), rotavirus and adenovirus was investigated by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (real-time-RT PCR), nested (RT)-PCR and molecular genotyping. Our findings show that 5.56% of samples were contaminated with at least one NoV, HAV and/or HEV. Contaminated shellfish were sampled at production sites and retail stores and their origin was traced back to Spain and several municipalities in Italy. In conclusion, our study highlights the need to implement routine monitoring programs along the whole food chain as an effective measure to prevent foodborne transmission of enteric viruses. View Full-Text

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