Prevalence of enterovirus and hepatitis A virus in bivalve molluscs from Galicia (NW Spain): inadequacy of the EU standards of microbiological quality

Int J Food Microbiol. 2002 Mar 25;74(1-2):119-30. doi: 10.1016/s0168-1605(01)00744-9.


A study of the presence of hepatitis A virus (HAV) and enterovirus (EV) in shellfish from the northwestern coast of Spain, one of the most important mussel producers in the world, was carried out employing dot-blot hybridization and RT-PCR techniques. In addition, bacterial contamination of the samples was evaluated by Escherichia coli (EC) counts, according to the European Union (EU) standards of shellfish microbiological quality. Shellfish samples included raft-cultured and wild mussels, as well as wild clams and cockles. Bacterial counts showed that the majority of samples (40.8%) could be classified as moderately polluted following the EU standards, and therefore should undergo depuration processes. However, differences in bacterial contamination were observed between cultured mussel and wild shellfish. Thus, percentage of clean samples (<230 EC/100 g shellfish) was clearly higher in cultured mussels (49.1%) than in wild mussels (22.8%) or clams and cockles (10.7%). HAV was detected in 27.4% and EV in 43.9% of the samples that were analyzed. Simultaneous detection of both viral types occurred in 14.1% of the samples. Statistical tests of dependence (chi-square test) showed no relationship either between viral and bacterial contamination, or between the presence of HAV and EV. Comparative analysis of hybridization and RT-PCR for viral detection yielded different results depending on the virus type that was studied, RT-PCR being effective for HAV but not for EV detection. The obtained results reinforce once again the inadequacy of bacteriological standards to assess viral contamination and suggest that although virological analysis of shellfish is possible by molecular techniques, interlaboratory standardization and validation studies are needed before the routine use in monitoring shellfish microbiological safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Enterovirus / genetics
  • Enterovirus / isolation & purification*
  • European Union
  • Food Microbiology
  • Hepatitis A virus / genetics
  • Hepatitis A virus / isolation & purification*
  • Immunoblotting / methods
  • Mollusca / microbiology
  • Mollusca / virology*
  • Prevalence
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Shellfish / microbiology*
  • Shellfish / standards*
  • Shellfish / virology
  • Spain