Considering that several recent cases of human gastroenteritis have been associated with species from the Arcobacter genus, and that few data are currently available about the occurrence of this genus in Italian shellfish, the aim of the present study was to evaluate the occurrence of Arcobacter spp. and the presence of virulence-associated genes. The approach consisted of cultural and biomolecular (multiplex-PCR and 16S-RFLP) methods identifying isolates, followed by PCR assays aimed at the cadF, ciaB, cjl349, irgA, hecA putative virulence genes. Arcobacter spp. was detected in 16/70 (22.8%) shellfish samples. Specifically, Arcobacter spp. was highlighted in 10/42 (23.8%) mussel and in 6/28 (21.4%) clam samples. Subsequently, biomolecular assays revealed Arcobacter butzleri in 12/16 (75%) and Arcobacter cryaerophilus 1B in 4/16 (25%) isolates. PCRs aimed at the five putative virulence genes demonstrated widespread distribution of these genes among Arcobacter isolates and some differences from the results published by other authors. Our research provides more information regarding the health risks associated with the consumption of raw bivalve molluscs and underlines the need to implement an adequate control plan by performing intensive and continuous monitoring in order to guarantee human health.
Keywords: Arcobacter; Bivalve molluscs; Food-borne pathogen; Putative virulence factors.
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