PROJECT AMBASSADOR OF February 2014
Dr Simonetta Mattiucci / Universitá degli Studi della Tuscia (Tuscia University, UT-URS), Italy
Dr. Simonetta Mattiucci is the leader of workpackage 4, which deals with hazard identification. The WP is aimed at identifying and characterizing anisakid nematode species and populations by using molecular markers. It also aims to develop new microsatellite markers on some zoonotic anisakids which will represent an innovative and sensitive diagnostic tool. One of the aims of the WP is to develop and produce new primers and probes based on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genes to recognize all the zoonotic anisakids, parasitic on fish fillets. Population genetics analysis on the parasite species will also be conducted within this WP.
About Simonetta Mattiucci
Dr. Simonetta Mattiucci is Senior Researcher at the Department of Public Health Sciences & Infectious Diseases (Parasitology Unit) of “Sapienza-University of Rome” (URS). She is Aggregate Professor of Parasitology in the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of URS and contract Professor of “Marine Ecology” and “Parasitology” at Tuscia University and in the Doctorate School of “Ecology and conservation of Biological resources”. She teaches in the Veterinary Master Degree on “Food Inspection of Animal Origin”. Since 2007 she is the Chair of the International Association of Fish Parasitologists. In 2011, she was a scientific expert member of the EFSA working group under the BIOHAZ Panel on “Fish parasites in the Baltic Sea”. More than 25 years of her research efforts have been dedicated to anisakid nematodes, especially relating to molecular systematics, phylogeny, ecology, and their pathogenic role to humans (Anisakidosis). Author of 89 papers related to anisakid nematodes, published high impact peer reviewed International Journals.
Dr. Simonetta Mattiucci has given us some key answers related to her work within the PARASITE project:
Is it expected that different species represent a different risk for consumers? Why?
When assessing the risk to consumers, derived from the presence of zoonotic parasites in fish, the identification of the infective agents represents the first step of an epidemiological survey.
Different species of anisakids have different ecological characteristics, including their geographical distribution, life-cycle and location in the fish host species. Thus, different anisakid species provoke different infection levels in the same fish species. This can be observed if the same fish species are sampled from different fishing grounds, and if we observe distinct parts of the host fish.
Finally, different anisakid species may have different pathological consequences to humans that can become accidental hosts. In addition, antigens that can be isolated from different anisakid species may be allergens.
In the PARASITE project, genetic markers will be used to identify and characterize a wide range of nematode species. Which are the main advantages of genetic markers as identification tools? Can this technology be implemented under industrial conditions?
Larval anisakid parasites does not have distinct diagnostic morphological characters at the species level, therefore they cannot be identified based on traditional methodologies. In contrast, the genetic/molecular markers allow to identify the zoonotic species, and to distinguish them from those not having a zoonotic role to humans.
Further, the identification of a large number of parasites will allow gathering more precise epidemiological data on the zoonotic species.
In addition, two identification methods (inferred from DNA and diagnostic enzymatic loci) of zoonotic parasites will be combined with a detection method (press-UV system of fillets) in order to provide the seafood industry operators, with specific, sensitive and rapid methods for fish and fish products inspection, mainly applicable to the edible parts (fillets) of the fish.
Can these methods be used for identifying nematode species in (processed) fishery products?
Identification methods inferred from DNA-barcodes has been implemented in the PARASITE project, allowing the construction of DNA-probes which are actually able to recognize correctly, simultaneously and in smaller DNA quantity, five different anisakid species. This methodology, a multiplex RT-PCR, will, in the future, be applicable to the fish processing industry.