Contamination of Atlantic coast commercial shellfish with Cryptosporidium
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Shellfish (oysters and/or clams) were obtained from 37 commercial harvesting sites in 13 Atlantic coast states from Maine to Florida and one site in New Brunswick, Canada. Gill washings from each of 25 shellfish at each site were examined by immunofluorescence microscopy (IFA) for oocysts of Cryptosporidium. Gill washings from another 25 shellfish at each site were grouped into five pools of five shellfish each. DNA from each pool was utilized for PCR and genotyping. Oocysts were found in 3.7% of 925 oysters and clams examined by IFA in shellfish from New Brunswick and 11 of 13 states. Cryptosporidium DNA was detected by PCR in 35.2% of 185 pools. Cryptosporidium parvum genotypes 1 and 2, and Cryptosporidium meleagridis, all of which have been identified in infected humans, were identified at 37.8% of the sites. Gill washings from every site were tested for the presence of infectious oocysts by biological assay in neonatal BALB/c mice but no mice were found infected, suggesting that either the oocysts were no longer infectious or infections in mice were below the level of detection. Collectively, these findings indicate that Cryptosporidium species, indicative of pollution from human and animal feces and potentially infectious for humans, were found in commercial shellfish from 64.9% of sites examined along the Atlantic coast by either microscopy or molecular testing. Previous reports link periods of high rainfall with the elevated numbers of pathogen contaminated shellfish. Because shellfish in the present study were examined during a period of exceptionally low precipitation, the data are thought to underestimate the number of Cryptosporidium contaminated shellfish likely to be found during periods of normal or above normal precipitation.
KeywordsHigh Rainfall Atlantic Coast Infected Human Immunofluorescence Microscopy Normal Precipitation
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