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Contaminants in Shellfish


Shellfish, notably bivalves, are routinely exposed to and accumulate high levels of pathogens and chemical contaminants. Petroleum pollution is nearly ubiquitous in coastal waters, which is exacerbated by accidental oil spills. Contamination of shellfish by petroleum hydrocarbon pollution often results in closure of commercial fisheries and shellfish beds, but it may also expose recreational or subsistence harvesters of seafood to potentially harmful, including carcinogenic, compounds.


Among the pathogens of concern, Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a leading cause of seafood-associated gastroenteritis and related illnesses worldwide. In some cases, such illnesses may lead to serious health consequences, including the possibility of death. There are data to suggest that the geographical range of the epidemiologically confirmed V. parahaemolyticus illness has increased in recent years. There is the potential for greater health hazard from consumption of wild or farmed bivalves. In the United States, Vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths every year (CDC data). Typically, Vibrio infection occurs through consumption of raw or undercooked bivalves, notably oysters. More recently (2018), V. parahaemolyticus infection of imported crab meat was reported from three states and the District of Columbia, which required hospitalization of exposed individuals.


Traditional analytical methods used to identify and determine levels of pathogens or petroleum hydrocarbons are time-consuming, technically demanding, and often expensive. In addition, many of the solvents used in the analyses pose environmental and human health risks. Recent emergence of novel sensor technologies, advent of miniaturization of chemical analytical methods, and rapid growth in the implementation of portable devices have increased the expectation of widely adopting sensors for measuring single and multiple stressors that are operable in diverse environmental sample matrices. Technologies that have the potential for detecting contaminants in biological tissues may be spectroscopic or non-spectroscopic (e.g., immunoassays, molecular and gene-based approaches, electrochemical biosensors, microfluidic arrays and photosensors, and microchip electrophoresis).


Applications in this subtopic might include an understanding of analytical technologies and their potential for automation and/or portability, an appreciation of working with biological tissues, and awareness of complexities caused by multiple biological strains and mixtures of contaminants in field samples. It is not anticipated that individual proposals will address both aspects of the topic, i.e., pathogens and petroleum hydrocarbons. Applicants may address individual or multiple pathogen species, or a specific petroleum hydrocarbon or a group of compounds, e.g., polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

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