Purpose: The objectives of this analysis were to detect, enumerate, and characterize HAV in bay scallops associated with an outbreak.
Methods: Individually quick frozen (IQF) bay scallops were analyzed for the presence of HAV using a high pH eluent along with ultracentrifugation for concentration and murine norovirus was utilized as an extraction control. Commercial extraction kits and RT-qPCR assays were used for RNA extraction and detection and HAV levels were enumerated utilizing standard curves. Gel electrophoresis of amplicons from the 5’ untranslated region of the HAV genome was used to distinguish between wild type and laboratory strains of HAV. Conventional RT-PCR or RT-qPCR/qPCR and big-dye terminal sequencing of the VP1-2B region of the HAV genome was used for characterization.
Results: HAV was detected at approximately four genomic copies per scallop consumed. Gel and sequence analysis of the amplicons demonstrated that the genotype from the implicated product was HAV 1A, while the laboratory control was HAV genotype 1B. In addition, genetic analysis revealed 100% homology between the scallop and clinical strains.
Significance: Eating contaminated uncooked molluscan shellfish can pose a health risk which can lead to deadly illnesses caused by enteric viruses such as HAV. Previously, only consumption of adulterated oysters or clams had been implicated in HAV associated shellfish outbreaks in the United States. This was the first reported incidence in the United States of HAV associated illnesses due to consumption of bay scallops.