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F-Specific RNA Bacteriophages, Especially Members of Subgroup II, Should Be Reconsidered as Good Indicators of Viral Pollution of Oysters

Abstract : Norovirus (NoV) is the leading cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks linked to oyster consumption. In this study, we investigated the potential of F-specific RNA bacteriophages (FRNAPH) as indicators of viral contamination in oysters by focusing especially on FRNAPH subgroup II (FRNAPH-II). These viral indicators have been neglected because their behavior is sometimes different from that of NoV in shellfish, especially during the depuration processes usually performed before marketing. However, a significant bias needs to be taken into account. This bias is that, in the absence of routine culture methods, NoV is targeted by genome detection, while the presence of FRNAPH is usually investigated by isolation of infectious particles. In this study, by targeting both viruses using genome detection, a significant correlation between the presence of FRNAPH-II and that of NoV in shellfish collected from various European harvesting areas impacted by fecal pollution was observed. Moreover, during their depuration, while the long period of persistence of NoV was confirmed, a similar or even longer period of persistence of the FRNAPH-II genome, which was over 30 days, was observed. Such a striking genome persistence calls into question the relevance of molecular methods for assessing viral hazards. Targeting the same virus (i.e., FRNAPH-II) by culture and genome detection in specimens from harvesting areas as well as during depuration, we concluded that the presence of genomes in shellfish does not provide any information on the presence of the corresponding infectious particles. In view of these results, infectious FRNAPH detection should be reconsidered as a valuable indicator in oysters, and its potential for use in assessing viral hazard needs to be investigated. IMPORTANCE This work brings new data about the behavior of viruses in shellfish, as well as about the relevance of molecular methods for their detection and evaluation of the viral hazard. First, a strong correlation between the presence of F-specific RNA bacteriophages of subgroup II (FRNAPH-II) and that of norovirus (NoV) in shellfish impacted by fecal contamination has been observed when both viruses are detected using molecular approaches. Second, when reverse transcription-PCR and culture are used to detect FRNAPH-II in shellfish, it appears that the genomes of the viruses present a longer period of persistence than infectious virus, and thus, virus genome detection fails to give information about the concomitant presence of infectious viruses. Finally, this study shows that FRNAPH persist at least as long as NoV does. These data are major arguments to reconsider the potential of FRNAPH as indicators of shellfish viral quality.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - 11:44:04 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 3:46:10 AM

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C. Hartard, M. Leclerc, R. Rivet, A. Maul, J. Loutreul, et al.. F-Specific RNA Bacteriophages, Especially Members of Subgroup II, Should Be Reconsidered as Good Indicators of Viral Pollution of Oysters. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, American Society for Microbiology, 2018, 84 (1), ⟨10.1128/AEM.01866-17⟩. ⟨hal-01891106⟩



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