Nested Spatial and Temporal Modeling of Environmental Conditions Associated With Genetic Markers of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in Washington State Pacific Oysters

Brendan Fries, Benjamin J.K. Davis, Anne E. Corrigan, Angelo DePaola, Frank C. Curriero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is one of the largest commercial harvesting areas for Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) in the United States. Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacterium naturally present in estuarine waters accumulates in shellfish and is a major cause of seafood-borne illness. Growers, consumers, and public-health officials have raised concerns about rising vibriosis cases in the region. Vibrio parahaemolyticus genetic markers (tlh, tdh, and trh) were estimated using an most-probable-number (MPN)-PCR technique in Washington State Pacific oysters regularly sampled between May and October from 2005 to 2019 (N = 2,836); environmental conditions were also measured at each sampling event. Multilevel mixed-effects regression models were used to assess relationships between environmental measures and genetic markers as well as genetic marker ratios (trh:tlh, tdh:tlh, and tdh:trh), accounting for variation across space and time. Spatial and temporal dependence were also accounted for in the model structure. Model fit improved when including environmental measures from previous weeks (1-week lag for air temperature, 3-week lag for salinity). Positive associations were found between tlh and surface water temp, specifically between 15 and 26°C, and between trh and surface water temperature up to 26°C. tlh and trh were negatively associated with 3-week lagged salinity in the most saline waters (> 27 ppt). There was also a positive relationship between tissue temperature and tdh, but only above 20°C. The tdh:tlh ratio displayed analogous inverted non-linear relationships as tlh. The non-linear associations found between the genetic targets and environmental measures demonstrate the complex habitat suitability of V. parahaemolyticus. Additional associations with both spatial and temporal variables also suggest there are influential unmeasured environmental conditions that could further explain bacterium variability. Overall, these findings confirm previous ecological risk factors for vibriosis in Washington State, while also identifying new associations between lagged temporal effects and pathogenic markers of V. parahaemolyticus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number849336
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - Mar 30 2022


  • Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas)
  • Vibrio parahaemolyticus
  • Washington (state)
  • mixed-effects model
  • spatial modeling
  • temporal modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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