DAO 126:143-153 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03167

Seawater detection and biological assessments regarding transmission of the oyster parasite Mikrocytos mackini using qPCR

Mark P. Polinski, Gary R. Meyer, Geoffrey J. Lowe, Cathryn L. Abbott*

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Biological Station, 3190 Hammond Bay Road, Nanaimo, BC V9T 6N7, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Mikrocytos mackini is an intracellular parasite of oysters and causative agent of Denman Island disease in Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas. Although M. mackini has been investigated for decades, its natural mode of transmission, mechanism for host entry, and environmental stability are largely unknown. We explored these biological characteristics of M. mackini using a recently described quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay. We detected M. mackini in the flow-through tank water of experimentally infected oysters and during disease remission in host tissues following 6 wk of elevated water temperature. Waterborne exposure of oysters to M. mackini further confirmed the potential for extracellular seawater transmission of this parasite and also identified host gill to have the highest early and continued prevalence for M. mackini DNA compared to stomach, mantle, labial palps, or adductor muscle samples. However, infections following waterborne challenge were slow to develop despite a substantial exposure (>106 M. mackini l-1 for 24 h), and further investigation demonstrated that M. mackini occurrence and infectivity severely declined following extracellular seawater incubation of more than 24 h. This study demonstrates a potential for using qPCR to monitor M. mackini in wild or farmed oyster populations during periods of disease remission or from environmental seawater samples. This work also suggests that gill tissues may provide a primary site for waterborne entry and possibly shedding of M. mackini in oysters. Further, although extracellular seawater transmission of M. mackini was possible, poor environmental stability and infection efficiency likely restricts the geographic transmission of M. mackini between oysters in natural environs and may help to explain localized areas of infection.


KEY WORDS: Mikrocytos mackini · Oyster parasite · Waterborne transmission · Crassostrea gigas · Quantitative PCR


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Cite this article as: Polinski MP, Meyer GR, Lowe GJ, Abbott CL (2017) Seawater detection and biological assessments regarding transmission of the oyster parasite Mikrocytos mackini using qPCR. Dis Aquat Org 126:143-153. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03167

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