DAO 59:109-118 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/dao059109

A new pathogenic virus in the Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus from the Florida Keys

Jeffrey D. Shields1,*, Donald C. Behringer Jr2

1Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William & Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062, USA
2Department of Biological Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA
*Email:

ABSTRACT: A pathogenic virus was diagnosed from juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters Panulirus argus from the Florida Keys. Moribund lobsters had characteristically milky hemolymph that did not clot. Altered hyalinocytes and semigranulocytes, but not granulocytes, were observed with light microscopy. Infected hemocytes had emarginated, condensed chromatin, hypertrophied nuclei and faint eosinophilic Cowdry-type-A inclusions. In some cases, infected cells were observed in soft connective tissues. With electron microscopy, unenveloped, nonoccluded, icosahedral virions (182 ± 9 nm SD) were diffusely spread around the inner periphery of the nuclear envelope. Virions also occurred in loose aggregates in the cytoplasm or were free in the hemolymph. Assembly of the nucleocapsid occurred entirely within the nucleus of the infected cells. Within the virogenic stroma, blunt rod-like structures or whorls of electron-dense granular material were apparently associated with viral assembly. The prevalence of overt infections, defined as lethargic animals with milky hemolymph, ranged from 6 to 8% with certain foci reaching prevalences of 37%. The disease was transmissible to uninfected lobsters using inoculations of raw hemolymph from infected animals. Inoculated animals became moribund 5 to 7 d before dying and they began dying after 30 to 80 d post-exposure. The new virus is apparently widespread, infectious, and lethal to the Caribbean spiny lobster. Given the pathogenic nature of the virus, further characterization of the disease agent is warranted.


KEY WORDS: Crustacea · Disease · Decapoda · Hemocyte · Pathology · Viral assembly · Herpes-like · Iridovirus


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