DAO 46:57-66 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/dao046057

Parasitism by the protozoan Perkinsus atlanticus favours the development of opportunistic infections

Juan F. Montes*, Mercè Durfort, José García-Valero

Departament de Biologia Cel·lular, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Avda. Diagonal, 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain Centre de Referència de Recerca i Desenvolupament en Aqüicultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya, CRAC

ABSTRACT: It has been suggested that opportunistic pathogens could contribute to the mortality of Perkinsus atlanticus-infected clams. Examination of Tapes semidecussatus clams from the northern Mediterranean coast of Spain revealed that while 86% of the clams heavily infected with P. atlanticus were co-infected by bacteria and/or viruses, neither non-infected nor lightly P. atlanticus-infected specimens had bacterial or viral infections. The bacteria, which had a Gram-negative cell wall, were always located in the apical pole of gill epithelial cells and enclosed within membranous compartments. Bacteria-containing cells were hypertrophied and showed dysplasia with loss of cilia and microvilli. The viruses shared ultrastructural, morphologic and cytopathic characteristics of a polyomavirus. Viral particles with icosahedral symmetry were found in both the cytoplasm and the nucleus of numerous cell types. Virus-infected cells showed severe alterations, including hypertrophy, reduction of the intracellular compartments and extrusion of the nuclear envelope. Moreover, gill epithelial cells showed disorganization and swelling of the apical region, which affected the ciliary structure. Our findings show that P. atlanticus parasitism favours the development of opportunistic infections which have detrimental effects in this clam population.

KEY WORDS: Bacterium · Cytopathology · Opportunistic infection · Perkinsus atlanticus · Polyomavirus · Tapes semidecussatus

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