Project number: 2015-042
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $29,520.38
Principal Investigator: Tom Madigan
Organisation: SARDI Food Safety and Innovation
Project start/end date: 29 Feb 2016 - 29 Jun 2016


This is the first time that an illness associated with Vibrio has been traced-back to Tasmanian oysters. Regrettably, this incident occurred in the only major harvesting area in Tasmania that has not been impacted by the current Pacific oyster mortality event.

In Australia the control of Vibrio is currently limited to temperature controls during storage or transport. Pre-harvest controls used by the shellfish quality assurance programs are predicated on controlling risk posed by faecal contamination and biotoxins and are not suitable for controlling risk from these naturally occurring bacteria. Although the recent implementation of the Codex Standard for pathogenic marine vibrios suggests risk in bivalve growing areas should be assessed to ascertain the risk to public health, there has been limited research undertaken in Australia. The studies undertaken to date have generally been short in nature with no comprehensive longitudinal studies being undertaken and methodologies have now progressed significantly, whereas New Zealand has been undertaking a long-term survey to understand the risk posed by these pathogens (Cruz, Hedderley & Fletcher 2015). This issue may become a risk in accessing key markets that are active in monitoring or who regulate for these pathogens.

There is an immediate need to collect information on prevalence for the remainder of the summer period to understand the risk and evaluate if there is a relationship to salinity, temperature and toxic strains. This information will be immediately useful for developing appropriate management plans in this growing region.

This illness outbreak will likely result in Tasmanian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program and the other state programs having to consider how to manage risk in the growing areas and establish what is an acceptable level. The work proposed here could be used as a framework for future work that assesses risk across the bivalve industry Australia-wide.


1. Assess for the prevalence of pathogenic Vibrio species in the St Helens harvesting region
2. Assess for the presence of genes associated with virulence in Vibrio parahaemolyticus
3. Evaluate if a relationship exisits that between prevalance and sea water temperature and salinity

Final report

ISBN: 978-1-921563-92-8
Authors: Tom Madigan Kate Wilson Gayle Smith and Alison Turnbull

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