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Food Virology: Advances and Needs

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Part of the Food Microbiology and Food Safety book series (RESDEV)


Food has been recognized as a vehicle for transmission of viruses for more than 100 years. Milk was identified as a vehicle for the transmission of poliomyelitis in 1914 (Jubb 1915). However, in the mid-1950s, hepatitis A transmission by shellfish was first reported in Sweden (Roos 1956) and then in the United States (Mason and McLean 1962). It was not until animal cell culture was developed, that the study of viruses in food could readily develop as a science. This allowed for the propagation of many of the enteric viruses and their detection in foods. Most of the early work centered on (1) shellfish because it was a known vehicle for hepatitis A transmission and (2) the use of treated wastewater for food crop irrigation. Dean Cliver was probably the first person that could call himself a food virologist. His career began in 1962 at the Food Research Institute, which started at the University of Chicago and later moved to the University of Wisconsin (Cliver 2010). His career saw the development of cell cultures to study viruses in foods and then to the age of molecular detection of viruses in foods. The focus of viruses in foods was originally on enteroviruses because they could readily be grown in cell cultures. Eventually rotavirus and hepatitis could be cultured, but it was not until molecular methods such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were developed that the importance of norovirus and rotavirus in foodborne illness was fully appreciated. Today it is well documented in numerous epidemiological studies that noroviruses are the major cause of foodborne illness in the United States (Lopman et al. 2012). This has resulted in a rapid growth of the field of food virology in recent years.


  • Molecular Method
  • Enteric Virus
  • Animal Cell Culture
  • Foodborne Illness
  • Food Research Institute

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Gerba, C.P. (2016). Food Virology: Advances and Needs. In: Goyal, S., Cannon, J. (eds) Viruses in Foods. Food Microbiology and Food Safety(). Springer, Cham.

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