Cases of Vibrio infections in the United States have tripled from 1996 to 2009 and these infections are most often associated with the consumption of seafood, particularly oysters (Crassostrea virginica). Information is needed on how to reduce numbers of Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus in bi-valve molluscan shellfish (for example, oysters). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of high salinity relaying or treatment in recirculating aquaculture systems (RASs) as methods to reduce the abundance of V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus in oysters. For relaying field trials, oysters were collected from approved harvest waters, temperature abused outside under a tarp for 4 h, and then transferred to high (29 to 33 ppt.) and moderate (12 to 19 ppt.) salinities. For RAS treatment trial, oysters were transferred to 32 to 34 ppt. salinity at 15 °C. After 7, 14, 21, and in some instances 28 d, oysters were collected and analyzed for V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus levels using multiplex real-time PCR. Initial levels of V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus ranged from 3.70 to 5.64 log10 MPN/g, and were reduced by 2 to 5 logs after 21 to 28 d in high salinity water (29 to 34 ppt.). Oyster mortalities averaged 4% or less, and did not exceed 7%. Relaying of oysters to high salinity field sites or transfer to high salinity RAS tanks was more effective in reducing V. vulnificus compared with V. parahaemolyticus. These results suggest that high salinity relaying of oysters is more effective in reducing V. vulnificus than V. parahaemolyticus in the oyster species used in this study.
Relaying of naturally contaminated oysters to high salinity sites in the Atlantic Coastal Bays and the Chesapeake Bay could provide a low cost and practical mitigation strategy to reduce Vibrio spp. in oysters. This could result in decreasing the risk of Vibrio illnesses from oyster consumption during the warmer months when Vibrio is present in high numbers. This study provides important information for risk management decisions for the oyster industry and regulatory agencies.