DAO 36:53-60 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/dao036053

Branchial rickettsia-like infection associated with clam Venerupis rhomboides mortality

Antonio Villalba1,*, María J. Carballal1, Carmen López1, Azucena Cabada2, Laura Corral3, Carlos Azevedo3

1Centro de Investigacións Mariñas, Consellería de Pesca, Marisqueo e Acuicultura, Aptdo. 13, E-36620 Vilanova de Arousa, Spain
2Delegación Comarcal de Riveira, Consellería de Pesca, Marisqueo e Acuicultura, E-15960 Riveira, Spain
3Departamento de Biologia Celular, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas de Abel Salazar, Universidade do Porto, P-4050 Porto, Portugal

ABSTRACT: A histopathological survey was performed to search for the cause of high mortality of the clam Venerupis rhomboides (Pennant) in exploited beds of the Ensenada de Riveira (Ría de Arousa, Galicia, NW Spain). V. rhomboides from 2 beds affected by high mortality, Airós and Coroso, and a 3rd non-affected bed, Agudos, were sampled in spring and autumn of 1996. In addition, clams of the species Venerupis pullastra, with unnoticeable mortality, were taken from Airós during autumn sampling. According to prevalence, infection intensity and associated histopathological signs, a branchial rickettsia-like organism was the only pathogen that could be tentatively blamed for the mortality. Spherical to elongated intracytoplasmic rickettsia-like colonies up to 25 µm in length were observed at the base of gill filaments of the clams. Transmission electron microscopy study permitted identification of the micro-organisms in the colonies as rickettsia-like. Individual prokaryotes measured about 0.5 to 0.8 µm in diameter and up to 3 µm in length. The infection process resulted in extreme hypertrophy and lysis of host epithelial cells. Infection intensity was rated for each clam and comparison among high-mortality-affected and non-affected populations indicated the branchial rickettsia-like infection as the probable cause of the high mortality.

KEY WORDS: Venerupis rhomboides · Parasites · Rickettsia-like organisms · Histopathology · Ultrastructure

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