Effects of salinity and transparent exopolymer particles on formation of aquatic aggregates and their association with norovirus

Kaitlyn T. Hanley, Stefan Wuertz, Alexander Schriewer, Uta Passow, Woutrina A Smith, Paul Olin, Karen Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Human noroviruses (NoVs) are responsible for 50% of food-related disease outbreaks and are notably associated with shellfish consumption. Despite the detrimental health impacts of human NoV-contaminated seafood to public health, there is a lack of knowledge on the physicochemical conditions that govern NoV transmission in aquatic ecosystems. In the present study, we investigated the propensity for NoVs to associate with aquatic aggregates, which have been shown to efficiently deliver nano-sized particles to shellfish. Specific physicochemical conditions characteristic of shellfish cultivation waters, specifically salinity and transparent exopolymer particles (TEP), were targeted in this study for investigating aggregate formation and NoV association dynamics. Murine norovirus (MNV) was used in aggregation experiments as a model surrogate for NoVs. Results demonstrate increased aggregate formation as a function of increasing salinity and TEP concentrations, as well as greater numbers of MNV genomes incorporated into aggregates under conditions that favor aggregation. As aggregate formation was enhanced in waters representing optimal conditions for shellfish production, specifically saline and high TEP waters, the implications to virus transport and shellfish food safety are profound: more aggregates implies increased scavenging of virus particles from surrounding waters and therefor greater risk for bivalve contamination with nano-sized pathogens. These novel data provide insight into where and when NoVs are most likely to be ingested by shellfish via contaminated aggregates, thereby informing best management and water quality monitoring practices aimed at providing safe seafood to consumers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1514-1521
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Pathogen
  • Seafood safety
  • Shellfish
  • Transmission
  • Transport
  • Water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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