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Helicobacter Pylori Detection in Shellfish: A Real-Time Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction Approach

Pina-Pérez, Maria Consuelo, González, Ana, Moreno, Yolanda, Ferrús, Maria Antonia
Foodborne pathogens & disease 2019 v.16 no.2 pp. 137-143
Helicobacter pylori, animal pathogens, aquatic environment, clams, cytotoxins, food chain, food pathogens, foods, genes, mussels, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, seafood contamination, seawater, shellfish
Shellfish is a highly valuated natural food product that is usually consumed minimally processed. Some foodborne pathogens have been associated to marine products and isolated from aquatic environments. Helicobacter pylori emerges as one of the most concerning human pathogens associated to water and, thereby, it could be present in raw and slightly treated marine food products. The present research work aimed to detect the presence of H. pylori in Spanish commercial samples of shellfish (mussels, clams, and cockles) by means of a quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) approach based on the vacuolating cytotoxin A (vacA) gene specificity. Putative H. pylori amplicons were confirmed by sequencing. qPCR was positive for 12 out of the 100 samples, being 67% (8/12) from mussels, 25% (3/12) from clams, and only 8% (1/12) from cockles. After sequencing, three of the amplicons showed 97–99% homology with the H. pylori vacA gene. Quantitative results indicate that the levels of contamination remained below 10² log₁₀ colony forming units per mL (CFU/mL). The present research shows for the first time the effectiveness of the optimized qPCR in the identification of potentially H. pylori contaminated shellfish products. Our results confirm the presence of H. pylori in shellfish from the Spanish western seacoast and verify the possible relationship between the presence of H. pylori in seawater and the role of contaminated seafoods as vehicles of H. pylori entrance into the food chain.