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Primerdesign Launches Real-Time PCR Workflow for Onsite Detection of Norovirus in Oysters

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Primerdesign (part of the Novacyt Group), a company focussed on the design, manufacture, validation and supply of real-time PCR kits and reagents, today launched the genesig® Easy_oys Detection Kit for Norovirus in oysters. The quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay enables rapid and reliable detection of genogroup (G)I and GII Norovirus pathogens in oyster tissue. The user-friendly workflow offers a cost-effective solution that can be used on site to identify the contamination points across the production line, helping to reduce public health risk and minimise shellfish farm closures.


Norovirus is a major cause of viral gastroenteritis and foodborne transmission is responsible for an estimated 16% of cases in the UK*. Human sewage discharge around oyster beds results in bio-accumulation of the virus in their digestive glands, with more than 500 genome copies/gram of Norovirus GI / GII presenting a major risk of infection when consumed by humans.

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There is a growing need for methods to detect and quantify viruses in bivalve shellfish to control and risk manage potential outbreaks and spread. The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) in England and the Marine Institute in the Republic of Ireland, the only ISO 15216-accredited laboratories for PCR quantification of Norovirus in oysters in the British Isles, currently perform a limited number of tests from each grower due to resource constraints. This places food safety in jeopardy and farms at risk of closure if a Norovirus outbreak is linked to their oysters.


Quantitative PCR methods offer a fast and accurate means of screening water and food. The genesig Easy_oys Norovirus kit is a qPCR assay optimised for the quantitative detection of Norovirus GI and GII genomes in the digestive tissue of oysters. The highly sensitive kit demonstrated detection of both GI and GII down to 500 copies/gram, making it a suitable risk management tool to ensure that oysters with high infection risk are detected. The kit includes all the reagents needed to conduct viral testing in line with the ISO 15216 guidelines, without any prior lab experience. The complete testing workflow, including the exisgMag extraction kit, genesig Easy_oys Norovirus kit, and the genesig q16 instrument, delivers results within four hours. It was developed in collaboration with oyster farmers and the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, providing them with an easy-to-use and accessible tool to rapidly assess the food safety risk and give them confidence in the quality of their oysters.


Dr Stephanie Anderson, Product Manager, Primerdesign, said: “Many farmers are under pressure to test for Norovirus in order to prevent an outbreak and risk consequent closure. However, the lack of approved commercially available tests currently available in the UK and limited accredited testing facilities often results in delays, presenting a significant challenge to the industry.


Working together with farmers and the trade association for the UK shellfish industry to optimise our testing solution, we are proud to offer our new genesig Easy_oys Norovirus kit. The workflow offers a rapid, specific and user-friendly virus monitoring system that delivers results in just a matter of hours on site, providing the industry a vital tool to safeguard oyster quality from farm to plate.”


David Jarrad, CEO, Shellfish Association of Great Britain, said: “After many months of working closely with Shellfish Association of Great Britain members, I am delighted to see the hard work come to fruition with the launch of Primerdesign’s Norovirus testing workflow. Due to the pollution of our coastal waters, this is much needed by our industry, as we strive to ensure we market a nutritious, wholesome and, crucially, safe product.”


Gary Wordsworth, Founder of Othniel Oysters, said:Oyster growers have long had a need for a simple field test for Norovirus to ensure that our product is safe. I spent a lot of time working with the Primerdesign team over the winter of 23/24 as they produced a kit that would enable a grower to test their oysters in house and get a result back within four hours. I am delighted that this kit is now available as it enables us to test every batch that we send out and reassure our customers that our product is safe.”


Kerrie Ferguson, Head of Technical and Compliance, Loch Fyne Oysters Ltd, said:The training and technical support provided has been exemplary. It makes the introduction and application of new in-house technologies a viable and successful option. It takes away the requirement to depend solely on external testing services which have seen considerable cuts in recent years in relation to aquaculture-based services. The ability to test for Norovirus in house with real time results enables the business to react and respond to challenges caused by factors out of our control.”