Effects of temperature abuse on survival of Vibrio vulnificus in oysters.
Opaque and translucent morphotypes of a TnphoA-containing strain of Vibrio vulnificus were fed to oysters, which were subsequently stored at temperatures ranging from 0.5 to 22 degrees C for 10 days. Samples of oysters were homogenized and plated at intervals to determine the cell density of V. vulnificus and total aerobic population of bacteria present. At all temperatures, the numbers of V. vulnificus (both morphotypes) declined over the 10-day study period. The same observation was made with a lower inoculum of V. vulnificus. Identical experiments with shucked oysters showed a more rapid decrease in V. vulnificus. Identical experiments with shucked oysters showed a more rapid decrease in V. vulnificus to levels below limits of detection. Little change in the total bacterial counts was observed in shellstock oysters at any of the test temperatures, whereas incubation at the higher temperatures (17 and 22 degrees C) resulted in large increases in total counts in shucked oysters. These data suggest that temperature abuse of oysters may not be a factor in increasing the public health risk of V. vulnificus through raw oyster consumption. However, the data also suggest that even with proper storage, indigenous levels of V. vulnificus may remain sufficiently higher in shellstock oysters to produce infection in compromised hosts.
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