The potential for marine bivalve shellfish to act as transmission vehicles for outbreaks of protozoan infections in humans: a review.Int J Food Microbiol. 2007 Dec 15; 120(3):201-16.IJ
Most marine molluscan bivalve shellfish feed on suspended phytoplankton which are trapped from water pumped across the gills by ciliary action. Pathogenic microorganisms in the water may be filtered by the gills during feeding, and become concentrated in the digestive glands/tract. If these pathogens are not excreted or inactivated by the shellfish, or in subsequent preparatory processes, they may be ingested by consumers, the shellfish thereby acting as vehicles of infection. The protozoan parasites Cryptosporidium spp., Giardia duodenalis and Toxoplasma gondii have the potential to be transmitted in this way, and here we review the accumulating knowledge on the occurrence and survival of the transmission stages of these parasites in shellfish, whilst also emphasising the considerable gaps in our knowledge. Relevant information is particularly lacking for T. gondii, which, in comparison with Cryptosporidium spp. and G. duodenalis, has been relatively under-researched in this context. Although it seems evident that these shellfish can accumulate and concentrate all three of these parasites from the surrounding water, whether Giardia cysts remain viable and infectious is unknown, and some evidence suggests that they may be inactivated by the shellfish. Although both Toxoplasma and Cryptosporidium apparently retain their infectivity for prolonged periods in shellfish, the actual public health threat posed by these parasites via these shellfish is unclear, largely because there is minimal evidence of infection transmission. Reasons for this apparent lack of infection transmission are discussed and it is recommended that the potential for transmission via shellfish consumption is recognised by those concerned with investigating transmission of these infections.