Detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in Bivalve Mollusks by Droplet Digital RT-PCR (dd RT-PCR)

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jan 14;19(2):943. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19020943.


Bivalve shellfish are readily contaminated by human pathogens present in waters impacted by municipal sewage, and the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in feces of infected patients and in wastewater has drawn attention to the possible presence of the virus in bivalves. The aim of this study was to collect data on SARS-CoV-2 prevalence in bivalve mollusks from harvesting areas of Campania region. A total of 179 samples were collected between September 2019 and April 2021 and were tested using droplet digital RT-PCR (dd RT-PCR) and real-time RT-PCR. Combining results obtained with different assays, SARS-CoV-2 presence was detected in 27/179 (15.1%) of samples. A median viral concentration of 1.1 × 102 and 1.4 × 102 g.c./g was obtained using either Orf1b nsp14 or RdRp/gene E, respectively. Positive results were unevenly distributed among harvesting areas and over time, positive samples being more frequent after January 2021. Partial sequencing of the spike region was achieved for five samples, one of which displaying mutations characteristic of the Alpha variant (lineage B.1.1.7). This study confirms that bivalve mollusks may bioaccumulate SARS-CoV-2 to detectable levels and that they may represent a valuable approach to track SARS-CoV-2 in water bodies and to monitor outbreak trends and viral diversity.

Keywords: COVID-19; PCR; SARS-CoV-2; bivalve; shellfish; variant.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bivalvia*
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • RNA, Viral
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Waste Water


  • RNA, Viral
  • Waste Water

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants