February 15, 2017 — Scientists studying oysters along the Atlantic Coast have discovered a critical clue to understanding why more seafood lovers are getting sick from eating shellfish.
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have found a new strain of the bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus, the world’s leading culprit of contamination in shellfish that, when eaten, causes diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare cases, people have died from contracting lethal septicemia.
Cheryl Whistler and her colleagues discovered the new strain ST631 and detailed their findings in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. Previously only one strain of the bacteria was blamed for this type of food poisoning, which Whistler said is on the rise in New England and already is responsible for an estimated 45,000 cases in the U.S. each year.
Whistler said the new strain is endemic to the region but it is unclear how it evolved to become so dangerous. It has similar virulent genes to ST36, the strain long blamed for infections and which is believed to have come from the Pacific Northwest.