In a viral TikTok video that has garnered 2.2 million views, TikTokmalamamaofficial user rips open a $1 bag of raw oysters, revealing a pea crab in one of the shells. “That’s why it’s $1,” said the TikTok user, digging into the clams. “It’s a parasitic crab!”
Although pea crabs can be eaten with shellfish, there may be a larger concern present in your favorite seafood.
In a now-viral video produced in response to the first, Morticia, a microbiologist in Boise, Idaho, who worked on the research under grants from the USDA and the National Institutes of Health, shares the risks associated with eating shellfish — or any seafood — as they’re so high. Ocean heat as a result of climate change. Among the growing concerns that Morticia (who asked to use a pseudonym due to digital security) mentions is an increase in Vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria found in marine environments.
Vibrio vulnificus can make its way into the body through eating raw or undercooked seafood, or Exposing the wound to sea water Where the bacteria are.
“Shellfish are particularly vulnerable because they’re filter feeders, so these bacteria can travel through the organism and kind of get stuck in its tissues,” she says in the video. “You can’t tell if a shellfish has been contaminated with Vibrio bacteria by looking at it.”
The bacteria don’t make the shellfish look, smell, or taste different, which makes it difficult to know you’ve been exposed to Vibrio until you start to experience symptoms. Although infection rates are generally low, oysters have the highest amount of seafood-related deaths in the United States
“If you are healthy and what we call ‘immune competency,’ which really means your immune system is able to function properly and clear the infection, then your body will be able to clear the infection without a hospital visit or antibiotics. But in the context of a tissue infection or a person’s Already suffering from a weakened immune system, this infection can quickly turn fatal.” “This is where the high mortality rate we associate with Vibrio infection comes from.”
the The most recent outbreak was in 2019Gastrointestinal pathogen associated with shellfish imported from Mexico. (No deaths have been reported.) Climate change – which is causing the sea to warm – has caused an increase in bacteria in the water, leading to more cases of infection.
While you may not need to stop eating fresh oysters entirely, there are still important factors to consider. We asked general practitioners, microbiologists, and seafood distributors about the risks of shellfish consumption, symptoms of Vibrio infection, and treatment options. Here’s what you should know:
Symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus include digestive problems and even sepsis.
Clams are filter feeders, so when bacteria attach themselves to particles and other organisms in the water and then pass through the clamshell, the clam can collect a concentration of bacteria up to 100 times that of the surrounding water. Since shellfish are eaten raw, the risk of infection is higher compared to eating cooked or boiled seafood.
As a result, an estimated 84,000 people in the United States get an infection from Vibrio each year. Timothy J. Sullivan, national program leader in animal health and aquaculture, one of the divisions The National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the United States Department of Agriculture, explained the differences between symptoms between healthy and immunocompromised people.
“It usually results in a mild gastrointestinal upset, with healthy individuals experiencing fever, chills, cramps, diarrhea, or nausea within 48 hours of ingestion,” he said. “Deaths are extremely rare in healthy individuals, but for individuals with certain medical conditions, it can cause severe side effects.”
People who are immunocompromised are more susceptible to infections, and since the immune system plays a role in protecting the body from bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and viral infections, this puts them at greater risk of developing complications, one of which is sepsis.
primary sepsis, or The body’s severe response to infectionIt appears in about 60% of cases of Vibrio. People with certain diseases — including people with chronic liver disease, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, HIV, or other immunodeficiency conditions — can more easily develop sepsis, which can quickly lead to tissue damage and organ failure if left untreated. . Infection can develop rapidly when symptoms are severe. When gastrointestinal symptoms are completely absent—which occurs in about 10 to 15% of those infected—the incidence of sepsis and death is minimal.
If you’re a shellfish lover, there are ways to reduce your risk.
Almost all Vibrio infections are caused by eating raw or undercooked shellfish. As a result, many regulations have been put in place to reduce risks through sanitation. The National Shellfish Exchange Program, recognized by the Food and Drug Administration, ensures that oyster-producing countries follow safety guidelines, including certification, handling, and processing procedures.
However, harvest regulations do not eliminate the risk of Vibrio. As a result, oyster nations provide customers with warnings about infection risks. You may be able to find it on seafood packages and menus.
Christina Z. (who asked to keep her full name private for her job), a third-generation seafood processor and wholesale distributor of seafood, told HuffPost that eating shellfish, whether from a grocery store or an upscale restaurant, doesn’t change the way seafood is prepared. In a viral video she posted on TikTok, she shared that she would never eat raw oysters.
“As long as oysters are eaten raw, the risk remains the same. Restaurants and grocery stores adhere to high standards of buying responsibly from reputable distributors and maintaining a cold chain to prevent any spoilage. However, method of preparation to minimize risk is key. Raw/uncooked oysters Cooked is always higher risk. If shellfish is a must, choose steamed or baked.”
IIf you are going to eat oysters, it is important to note how the oysters are prepared and where they come from.
“Some of the safe seafood practices I recommend is to buy most seafood frozen at sea if it’s available,” said Christina. “This keeps the seafood safe and fresh, kills any live parasites and prevents the necessary conditions for bacterial growth after the catch. However, if you are buying fresh, be sure to buy from a reputable merchant who can tell you when the seafood was caught, and consume it within 1 to 2 days. after purchase”.
All coastal waters contain Vibrio bacteria. However, infections from Vibrio species are increasing, and as mentioned, climate change could lead to an increase in cases.
Most bacteria related to human disease love warmth, and need it to multiply. Vibrio really loves the heat. It lives in warm coastal sea waters, Morticia said. “As these waters get warmer due to a warming planet and climate change, they will not only grow to higher numbers in those waters, but they will also spread to new places as oceans that were previously on the cooler side become milder.”
Sullivan said there are always risks associated with eating raw shellfish. However, preventing consequences can start with preparation, knowing the source of your shellfish, and recognizing the symptoms of infection.