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 23 June 2018

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News

Emergence of a new Vibrio parahaemolyticus serotype in raw oysters from Texas

Following the sharp increase in Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections in Texas during the summer of 1998, Nicholas Daniels and colleagues surveyed persons reporting gastroenteritis after eating seafood in Texas and investigated environmental conditions in Galveston Bay, Texas, USA.

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Between May 31 and July 10, 1998, 416 persons in 13 states reported having gastroenteritis after eating oysters harvested from Galveston Bay. All 28 available stool specimens from affected persons yielded V. parahaemolyticus serotype O3:K6 isolates. This was the first time that this serotype had occurred in the US.

Oyster beds met current bacteriologic standards during harvest, and fecal coliform counts in water samples were within acceptable limits. Median water temperature and salinity during May and June 1998 were 30.0°C and 29.6 parts per thousand (ppt) compared with 28.9°C and 15.6 ppt for the previous 5 years (P < 0.001).

Reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the team concluded that the emergence of a virulent serotype, and elevated seawater temperatures and salinity levels, may have contributed to this large outbreak of V. parahaemolyticus. They went on to suggest that "current policy and regulations regarding the safety of raw oysters require reevaluation."

Raw or undercooked oysters can cause illness, even if harvested from monitored beds.

They warned, "Consumers and physicians should understand that raw or undercooked oysters can cause illness even if harvested from monitored beds. In patients who develop acute gastroenteritis within four days of consuming raw or undercooked oysters, a stool specimen should be tested for Vibrio species using specific media."

JAMA 284: 1541-5
03 October 2000

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