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Surveillance of norovirus contamination in commercial fresh/frozen berries from Heilongjiang Province, China, using a TaqMan real-time RT-PCR assay

Gao, Xuwen, Wang, Ziwei, Wang, Yixin, Liu, Zhongmei, Guan, Xueting, Ma, Yingying, Zhou, Han, Jiang, Yanping, Cui, Wen, Wang, Li, Xu, Yigang
Food microbiology 2019 v.82 pp. 119-126
Norovirus, exports, gastroenteritis, genotype, humans, monitoring, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, small fruits, surveys, viruses, China
Norovirus (NoV), a major food-borne virus, causes non-bacterial acute gastroenteritis in humans. Berries are generally harvested from low-growing bushes by hand and are minimally processed before being sold to consumers. Therefore, the consumption of berries has been linked to numerous food-borne gastroenteritis outbreaks caused by NoV in many countries. We performed a survey of NoV contamination in commercial fresh/frozen berry fruits collected from 2016 to 2017 in the Heilongjiang Province, the main berry-producing area in China, using a TaqMan-based real-time reverse transcription-PCR assay. Among 900 frozen and 900 fresh domestic retail berry samples, the prevalence of NoV was 9% (81/900) and 12.11% (109/900), including 35.80% (29/81) and 29.36% (32/109) of genotype GI alone, 54.32% (44/81) and 60.55% (66/109) of GII alone, and 9.88% (8/81) and 10.09% (11/109) of both GI and GII, respectively. No NoV was detected among the 677 frozen berry samples for export. Thus, the occurrence of NoV contamination was significantly higher in domestic berries than in exported berries and higher in fresh berries than in frozen berries. This study highlights the need for further risk surveillance for NoV contamination in berries produced in the Heilongjiang Province and recommends region-extended monitoring of retail berries for NoV.