Oysters around the world are under threat from a deadly herpes virus

Kevin Lunny holds a Pacific oyster at the Drake’s Bay Oyster Co (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Oysters around the world are under threat from a deadly herpes virus – and experts worry that it is going to spread more widely.

The virus, Ostreid herpesvirus 1 (OsHV-1), threatens Pacific oysters – the larger variety, and the most commonly eaten around the world.

You can’t contract herpes from eating an oyster infected with OsHV-1, even if you eat them raw, according to Colleen Burge, writing for The Conversation.


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A variant form of the virus wiped out eight million oysters in Britain after an outbreak in a shellfish fishery in the River Roach, Essex.

A previous outbreak in France wiped out 80-100% of affected beds. Researchers are now working to breed disease-resitant oysters.

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Burge says, ‘Herpes is often fatal to Pacific oysters. That’s especially true for OsHV-1 microvariants – mutant variants of OsHV-1 which are more virulent than the original reference strain.

‘These viruses are spreading globally, causing mass mortalities of Pacific oysters.

‘Breeding programs in locations including France, New Zealand and Australia are working to develop OsHV-1-resistant Pacific oysters. A complementary approach is to expose oysters and determine genes involved in OsHV-1 resistance.’

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