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Faecal contamination in bivalve molluscan shellfish: Can the application of the microbial source tracking method minimise public health risks?

Abstract

Consumption of bivalve molluscan shellfish (BMS) grown in faecally contaminated waters is a public health risk. While faecal contamination in BMS and water can originate from multiple sources (i.e. human, livestock, wildlife and crop production), accurate identification of the source(s) is important to establish an appropriate, cost-effective plan to minimise the potential public health risks. Microbial source tracking (MST) targets (genes) are more source-specific than faecal indicator bacteria. Application of MST methods could eliminate the requirement of multiple testing regimes for bacterial and viral pathogens in BMS. This approach, therefore, can assist to develop an accurate, reliable faecal pollution management plan that reduces the cost for BMS farmers and public health risks associated with BMS consumption. However, validation of MST targets and their recovery from BMS and correlation with other bioaccumulated pathogens in BMS is required before its field application.

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