Tissue distribution of a coliphage and Escherichia coli in mussels after contamination and depuration.


Experiments were undertaken to determine the tissue distribution of Escherichia coli and a coliphage after contamination of the common mussel (Mytilus edulis). Mussels were contaminated with high levels of feces-associated E. coli and a 22-nm icosahedral coliphage over a 2-day period in a flowing-seawater facility. After contamination, individual tissues were carefully dissected and assayed for E. coli and the coliphage. Contaminated mussels were also analyzed to determine the tissue distribution of the contaminants after 24- and 48-h depuration periods. The majority of each contaminant was located in the digestive tract (94 and 89% of E. coli and coliphage, respectively). Decreasing concentrations were found in the gills and labial palps, foot and muscles, mantle lobes, and hemolymph. Our results indicate that contamination above levels in water occurred only in the digestive tract. Contaminated mussels were depurated in a commercial-scale recirculating UV depuration system over a 48-h period. The percent reductions of E. coli occurred in the following order: digestive tract, hemolymph, foot and muscles, mantle lobes, and gills and labial palps. The percent reductions of the coliphage were different, occurring in the following order: hemolymph, foot and muscles, gills and labial palps, mantle lobes, and digestive tract. Our results clearly demonstrate that E. coli and the coliphage are differentially eliminated from the digestive tract. The two microorganisms are eliminated at similar rates from the remaining tissues. Our results also clearly show that the most significant coliphage retention after depuration for 48 h is in the digestive tract. Thus, conventional depuration practices are inappropriate for efficient virus elimination from mussels.

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