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Edible lamellibranch molluscs can be involved in foodborne disease and infections of varying severity. They are filter feeding animals able to retain and concentrate in their organism bacteria, parasites, viruses and biotoxins marine algae present in their external environment. Major shellfish harvesting and relaying areas from different areas in Sardinia region were defined and studied by analysing different physicochemical parameters in the water and the levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli), Norovirus (NoVs) genogroup I (NoVGI), NoVs genogroup II (NoVGII) and hepatitis A virus (HAV) in the shellfish harvested and farmed from 2009 to 2011. During that period the identification of the viral agents was carried out by one step real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and Escherichia coli according to ISO TS 16649- 3:2005 standard method. A total of 1266 shellfish samples were tested for NoVGI, NoVGII, HAV and faecal indicators. Norovirus contamination was found in 337 samples (26.6%); only one sample of mussels was positive for HAV (0.08%); while E. coli prevalence was 3.8% in shellfish. The probability of observing shellfish samples positive for NoVs, HAV and E. coli presence was associated with harvesting, growing and relaying areas, period of sampling, environmental parameters, animal species (P<0.05). Although the higher prevalence rate of human enteropathogenic viruses was found in the winter period, we did not observe a significant relationship between the effect of seawater temperature (seasonality) and NoVs presence all over the study period; in fact, according to statistical analysis, the presence of human enteric viruses does not appear to be related to water temperature.
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