Vibrio parahaemolyticus and other shellfish diseases of public health significance: A review


1999 1999


French RA

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The incidence of foodborne illness associated with consumption of contaminated seafood products has recently triggered media attention that has helped to increase public awareness of issues related to food safety. This media coverage has also generated a number of misconceptions regarding the safety of eating seafood. Microorganisms and other toxic substances commonly ingested by shellfish may accumulate within animal tissues and be passively transmitted to humans when they consume the tainted seafood products. Though generally relatively harmless to the affected shellfish, these microorganisms and chemicals are often pathogenic or toxic to humans. Pathogens of public health significance associated with contaminated seafood include causative agents of hepatitis and gastroenteritis, biotoxins (paralytic shellfish poisoning) and toxic industrial chemicals (heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and chlorinated hydrocarbons). One important microbial pathogen of marine species, including crabs, shrimp, lobster, and oysters is Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Recent foodborne disease outbreaks associated with consumption of oysters in the Pacific Northwest (1997), Galveston Bay, Texas (1998) and Oyster Bay, New York (1998), have heightened awareness of V. parahaemolyticus. This Vibrio species is a halophilic bacterium that is part of the normal flora of estuarine and other coastal areas worldwide. Human illness associated with V. parahaemolyticus is characterized by a self-limiting, mild to moderate gastroenteritis occurring within 4-96 hours after consumption of raw or improperly cooked, and/or stored fish and shellfish. Several halophilic Vibrio species associated with mollusks are reported to cause gastroenteritis in humans. Disease is strain-specific within Vibrio species and correlated with production of various toxins, including enterotoxins, cytotoxins, and hemolysins. In addition to surveillance efforts designed to identify the pathogenic strains of V. parahaemolyticus, epidemiologic and pathogenesis studies are currently underway. Such research will help determine the geographic distribution of V. parahaemolyticus and provide a better understanding of the mechanisms of the disease process. Diagnostic methods for the detection of V. parahaemolyticus and species typing continue to improve. A review of shellfish-associated foodborne diseases and current efforts to improve food safety in the United States will be addressed




Aromatic hydrocarbons, Bacteria, chemicals, Disease control, Distribution, fish, Galveston Bay, gastroenteritis, Heavy metals, hemolysin, Hydrocarbon, Hydrocarbons, Metals, Microorganisms, Mollusks, O 5060 Aquaculture, Oysters, Paralytic shellfish poisoning, Parasitic diseases, Poisoning, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Public health, Q1 01587 Diseases of Cultured Organisms, Q3 01587 Diseases of Cultured Organisms, Seafood, Shellfish, Shellfish culture, Texas, Toxicology, USA, Vibrio parahaemolyticus