Bacteriophages Against Pathogenic Vibrios in Delaware Bay Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) During a Period of High Levels of Pathogenic Vibrio parahaemolyticus

  • Gary P. RichardsEmail author
  • Lathadevi K. Chintapenta
  • Michael A. Watson
  • Amanda G. Abbott
  • Gulnihal Ozbay
  • Joseph Uknalis
  • Abolade A. Oyelade
  • Salina Parveen
Original Paper


Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) from three locations along the Delaware Bay were surveyed monthly from May to October 2017 for levels of total Vibrio parahaemolyticus, pathogenic strains of V. parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus, and for strain-specific bacteriophages against vibrios (vibriophages). The objectives were to determine (a) whether vibriophages against known strains or serotypes of clinical and environmental vibrios were detectable in oysters from the Delaware Bay and (b) whether vibriophage presence or absence corresponded with Vibrio abundances in oysters. Host cells for phage assays included pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus serotypes O3:K6, O1:KUT (untypable) and O1:K1, as well as clinical and environmental strains of V. vulnificus. Vibriophages against some, but not all, pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus serotypes were readily detected in Delaware Bay oysters. In July, abundances of total and pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus at one site spiked to levels exceeding regulatory guidelines. Phages against three V. parahaemolyticus host serotypes were detected in these same oysters, but also in oysters with low V. parahaemolyticus levels. Serotype-specific vibriophage presence or absence did not correspond with abundances of total or pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus. Vibriophages were not detected against three V. vulnificus host strains, even though V. vulnificus were readily detectable in oyster tissues. Selected phage isolates against V. parahaemolyticus showed high host specificity. Transmission electron micrographs revealed that most isolates were ~ 60-nm diameter, non-tailed phages. In conclusion, vibriophages were detected against pandemic V. parahaemolyticus O3:K6 and O1:KUT, suggesting that phage monitoring in specific host cells may be a useful technique to assess public health risks from oyster consumption.


Bacteriophage Oysters Crassostrea virginica Vibrio parahaemolyticus Vibrio vulnificus 



We thank Esam Almuhaideb, Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, MD, for confirmatory analysis of selected data. We also thank Devin Mendez, College of Agriculture, Science and Technology, Delaware State University, Dover, DE, for graphing assistance. Support for this project was provided by a USDA Capacity Building Grant Award no. 2014-38821-22430 (SP) and by USDA, ARS intramural funds under CRIS 8072-42000-081-00D (GPR).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary P. Richards
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lathadevi K. Chintapenta
    • 2
    • 6
  • Michael A. Watson
    • 1
  • Amanda G. Abbott
    • 2
  • Gulnihal Ozbay
    • 2
  • Joseph Uknalis
    • 3
  • Abolade A. Oyelade
    • 4
  • Salina Parveen
    • 5
  1. 1.United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research ServiceDelaware State University, James Baker CenterDoverUSA
  2. 2.College of Agriculture Science and TechnologyDelaware State UniversityDoverUSA
  3. 3.United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research ServiceWyndmoorUSA
  4. 4.New Jersey Department of Environmental ProtectionLeeds PointUSA
  5. 5.Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource SciencesUniversity of Maryland Eastern ShorePrincess AnneUSA
  6. 6.University of Wisconsin – River FallsRiver FallsUSA

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