Foodborne infections are of public health importance and deeply impact the global economy. Consumption of bivalve mollusks generates risk for humans because these filtering aquatic invertebrates often concentrate microbial pathogens from their environment. Among them, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Toxoplasma are major parasites of humans and animals that may retain their infectivity in raw or undercooked mollusks. This review aims to detail current and future tools and methods for ascertaining the load and potential infectivity of these parasites in marine bivalve mollusks, including sampling strategies, parasite extraction procedures, and their characterization by using microscopy and/or molecular techniques. Method standardization should lead to better risk assessment of mollusks as a source of these major environmental parasitic pathogens and to the development of safety regulations, similar to those existing for bacterial and viral pathogens encountered in the same mollusk species.
The protozoan parasites Giardia duodenalis, Cryptosporidium spp., and Toxoplasma gondii are pathogens that are resistant to a number of environmental factors and pose significant risks to public health worldwide. Their environmental transmission is closely governed by the physicochemical properties of their cysts (Giardia) and oocysts (Cryptosporidium and Toxoplasma), allowing their transport, retention, and survival for months in water, soil, vegetables, and mollusks, which are the main reservoirs for human infection. Importantly, the cyst/oocyst wall plays a key role in that regard by exhibiting a complex polymeric coverage that determines the charge and hydrophobic characteristics of parasites surfaces. Interaction forces between parasites and other environmental particles may be, in a first approximation, evaluated following the Derjaguin-Landau-Verwey-Overbeek (DLVO) theory of colloidal stability. However, due to the molecular topography and nano- to microstructure of the cyst/oocyst surface, non-DVLO hydrophobic forces together with additional steric attractive and/or repulsive forces may play a pivotal role in controlling the parasite behavior when the organism is subjected to various external conditions. Here, we review several parameters that enhance or hinder the adhesion of parasites to other particles and surfaces and address the role of fast-emerging techniques for mapping the cyst/oocyst surface, e.g., by measuring its topology and the generated interaction forces at the nano- to microscale. We discuss why characterizing these interactions could be a crucial step for managing the environmental matrices at risk of microbial pollution.
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