New OSU test detects fatal oyster disease

Scientists at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University have developed a new method of detecting Vibrio tubiashii, a bacteria that has decimated farmed oyster crops in the past.

The new detection method, described as an “early warning system” in a recent issue of the Journal of Microbiological Methods, looks for a toxin secreted by the bacteria. It involves the use of a “dipstick” that is similar to a human pregnancy test. It uses monoclonal antibodies that recognize the toxin.

“We still need to improve the sensitivity of the test and better quantify results, but it should provide information in about 30 minutes that used to take three or four days,” said Frances Biel, a faculty research assistant in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences. “That type of rapid detection will let oyster growers know they have a problem while they can still do something about it.”

High levels of the toxin prevent oyster larvae from growing. For decades, the bacteria has been a problem for farmers of oysters, along with other shellfish. In 2007 a major outbreak of the disease dealt a serious blow to the oyster industry.


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