Cross Atlantic visit to Food and Drug Administration Labs, by By Dr. David Walker, Cefas

The use of coliphage (viruses that infect E. coli bacteria) is becoming widely accepted as a suitable indicator of enteric virus contamination in environmental samples including water and bivalve shellfish. Cefas use coliphage as a surrogate for norovirus infectivity, and frequently measure coliphage levels in bivalve shellfish flesh for research purposes. During a recent trip to the USA to attend the International Water Microbiology Conference in May this year, I took the opportunity to visit the Food and Drug Administration laboratories in Dauphin Island, Alabama where Capt. Kevin Calci has developed an alternative method quantifying coliphage in bivalve shellfish flesh. This method is now used widely in the USA as part of the national shellfish sanitation programme. My trip to Dauphin Island allowed me to see first-hand a method that has been streamlined to be used for routine testing of shellfish in a medium throughput environment similar to that at Cefas. It is hoped that the lessons learnt from this laboratory visit will allow Cefas to develop a robust method for coliphage testing to be applied to shellfish testing in the UK and beyond. This trip has also helped us to build on our existing working relationship with our partners across the pond.