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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 59:85-91 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/dao059085

Application of a multiplex PCR for the detection of protozoan pathogens of the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica in field samples

Spencer Russell1, Salvatore Frasca Jr.1, Inke Sunila2, Richard A. French1,*

1Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science, U-3089, University of Connecticut, 61 North Eagleville Road, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-3089, USA
2Bureau of Aquaculture, Department of Agriculture, State of Connecticut, Milford, Connecticut 06460-0097, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Populations of eastern oysters Crassostrea virginica along the east coast of North America have repeatedly experienced epizootic mass mortality due to infections by protozoan parasites, and molecular diagnostic methodologies are fast becoming more widely available for the diagnosis of protozoan diseases of oysters. In this study we applied a modified version of an existing multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for detection of the eastern oyster parasites Haplosporidium nelsoni, H. costale and Perkinsus marinus from field-collected samples. We incorporated primers for DNA quality control based on the large subunit ribosomal RNA (LSU rRNA) gene of C. virginica. The multiplex PCR (MPCR) simultaneously amplified genomic DNA of C. virginica, and cloned DNA of H. nelsoni, P. marinus and H. costale. In field trial applications, we compared the performance of the MPCR to that of the conventional diagnostic techniques of histopathological tissue examination and the Ray/Mackin fluid thioglycollate medium (RMFT) assay. A total of 530 oysters were sampled from 18 sites at 12 locations along the east coast of the United States from the Gulf of Mexico to southern New England. The modified MPCR detected 21% oysters with H. nelsoni, 2% oysters with H. costale, and 40% oysters with P. marinus infections. In comparison, histopathological examination detected H. nelsoni and H. costale infections in 6 and 0.8% oysters, respectively, and the RMFT assay detected P. marinus infection in 31% oysters. The MPCR is a more sensitive diagnostic assay for detection of H. nelsoni, H. costale, and P. marinus, and incorporation of an oyster quality control product limits false negative results.

KEY WORDS: Diagnostics · Eastern oyster · Haplosporidium costale · Haplosporidium nelsoni · Multiplex PCR · Perkinsus marinus · Quality control

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