New testing method from UNC researchers seeks to measure bacteria levels in shellfish

There’s traditionally one nagging fear among those who love to eat seafood – is it safe to eat?

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Conservative estimates project $20 million growth potential for the shellfish market in North Carolina. (Source: NC Coastal Federation, State of the Oyster: 2015 Progress Report). Experts believe that number could be even greater if there was some means to verify how safe the seafood is to consumers.

Researchers with the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences are a step closer to making that happen, developing a lab test that measures Vibrio bacteria in seafood found in the brackish waters of bays, inlets and estuaries, where a large portion of seafood is harvested. The team of scientists has created a kit that can effectively measure bacteria levels in oysters to let consumers know if they are safe to eat, something that can be a boon to the state’s seafood industry.

Priority research areas eligible for ROI funding include advanced manufacturing; marine and coastal science; defense, military, and security; pharmacoengineering; energy; and data sciences. These awards demonstrate North Carolina’s growing appreciation of the role that university research can play in supporting economic development across our state.