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A comparison between farmed oysters using floating cages and oysters grown on‐bottom reveals more po

R Canty, D Blackwood, R Noble, B Froelich

Eating raw oysters can come with serious health risks, as oysters can potentially contain bacteria of the Vibrio genus that cause food‐borne infections. Vibrio bacteria are concentrated by oysters and, when consumed, infections can result with severe symptoms such as diarrhoea, lesions on the extremities, or even death. Vibrio spp. concentrations are strongly affected by season, location, and other factors such as temperature and salinity. Previous research in North Carolina oysters has been conducted on wild and farmed oysters but not at the same time. Farmed, or aquaculture raised, oysters are considerably different from wild oysters and could possibly pose different health risks. Farmed oysters are handled, raised from seed, and often grown using suspended grow‐out systems called ‘floating cages’. Therefore, farmed oysters can be grown at the surface of the estuary, while wild oysters typically grow at the bottom of the water column. This project compared the concentrations of Vibrio spp. in suspended, farm‐grown oysters and wild oysters at three sites, using a paired approach with farmed and wild oysters sampled in proximity. An important part of this comparison was identifying pathogenicity of the bacteria isolated from the samples. Distinction was made between off‐ and on‐bottom farming. Interestingly, on‐bottom oysters had more pathogenic V. vulnificus than off‐bottom oysters.

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