Salinity and Pathogenic Vibrios

Interactions between Salinity and the Resident Microbial Community in Excluding Pathogenic Vibrio from Oysters

Vaughn Cooper, Associate Professor of Microbiology, UNH (603.862.3422, and Cheryl Whistler, Associate Professor, Molecular, Celluar & Biomedical Sciences, UNH

Consumption of raw or undercooked bivalve shellfish has caused an increasing number of gastroenteritis outbreaks throughout the world in recent years. These outbreaks have often been associated with pathogenic strains of Vibrios species, some of which are present in the Great Bay Estuary.

Previous research suggests that an interaction between water conditions and the resident microbial community determines the presence and persistence of pathogenic Vibrios. Cooper and Whistler will describe and quantify microbiological communities in oysters, including the presence of the human pathogenic Vibrios species. They will assess any changes caused by seasons, summer storm events and relocation of the oysters to a higher salinity site. Researchers will characterize and compare the oyster microbiological communities from two sites within the Great Bay Estuary — one site restricted for shellfish collection, the other open to recreational shellfishing — by conducting genetic analyses, including PCR amplification and Illumina sequencing on the oysters.

Results from this research will allow managers to assist the shellfish industry by developing risk assessment plans and remediation strategies.