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Grantee Research Project Results

Grantee Research Project Results

Development of Pepper Mild Mottle Virus as a Bioindicator of Fecal Pollution in Commercial Shellfish Beds

EPA Grant Number: FP917376
Title: Development of Pepper Mild Mottle Virus as a Bioindicator of Fecal Pollution in Commercial Shellfish Beds
Investigators: Symonds, Erin M
Institution: University of South Florida
EPA Project Officer: Jones, Brandon
Project Period: August 1, 2011 through July 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011)
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Water Quality: Coastal and Estuarine Processes



Despite the widespread use of bacterial bioindicators of fecal pollution to monitor the sanitary condition of commercial molluscan shellfish, it has been well documented that they fail to correlate and predict the presence of enteric pathogens and risk of disease. Recent studies have demonstrated the potential of Pepper Mild Mottle Virus (PMMoV), an ornamental pepper virus present in feces, as a bioindicator of fecal pollution in coastal waters; however, no studies have investigated its use in commercial shellfish beds. As a result, the principal objective of this study is to further investigate the potential of PMMoV as a bioindicator of fecal contamination in commercial shellfish beds.


The first stage of this investigation will analyze the rate of bioaccumulation and retention of PMMoV in three species of molluscan shellfish (Crassosstrea gigas, Ostrea edulis and Mytilus edulis) through a series of mesocosm experiments. Additionally, the co-occurrence of PMMoV, norovirus and Escherichia coli will be analyzed in conjunction with the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority’s Shellfish Surveillance Program throughout 2010, 2011 and 2012. Furthermore, the incorporation of PMMoV will be investigated in U.S. monitoring programs. The results of these studies will provide the information necessary to evaluate the use of PMMoV as a reliable bioindicator of fecal pollution in commercial shellfish beds.

Expected Results:

The results of this study will indicate the usefulness of PMMoV as a bioindicator of fecal pollution in commercial shellfish beds. If the bioaccumulation and retention rates of PMMoV in shellfish correlate with that of known human enteric pathogens, then the utility of PMMoV as a bioindicator will be promising. Furthermore, if the presence of PMMoV correlates and co-occurs with the presence of human enteric pathogens in commercial shellfish beds in Europe and the United States, then this will further support the use of PMMoV as a reliable bioindicator of fecal pollution. The results of this work will help to assure the safety of human shellfish consumption worldwide.

Potential to Further Environmental / Human Health Protection

Fecal pollution in aquatic systems is a growing problem worldwide and has devastating impacts on human and environmental health. Although many government agencies mandate the use of bacterial indictors to identify fecal pollution, it is well known that these indicators poorly correlate with risk of disease and contamination events. This research directly will address the need for an improved bioindicator. It also will have broader applications as a tool in the development of more efficient wastewater treatment methods.

Supplemental Keywords:

fecal pollution, wastewater, Pepper Mild Mottle Virus, bioindicator, shellfish

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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