, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 187-196
Date: 24 Jan 2007

Evidence for the Involvement of Pathogenic Bacteria in Summer Mortalities of the Pacific Oyster Crassostrea gigas

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A study was conducted to investigate the involvement of bacteria in oyster mortalities during summer. Moribund and apparently healthy oysters were sampled during mortality events along the French coast and in rearing facilities, usually when temperature reached 19°C or higher, and oysters were in the gonadal maturation phase. Hemolymph samples were aseptically withdrawn and submitted to bacteriological analysis. In healthy oysters, bacteria colonized hemolymph at low concentrations depending on the location. In most moribund oysters, bacteria were present in hemolymph and other tissues. These bacterial populations were more often diverse in oysters originating from the open sea than from facilities where animals were generally infected by a single type of bacterium. Only the dominant colonies were identified by phenotypic and genotypic characters (RFLP of GyrB gene and partial sequence of 16S rRNA gene). They belonged to a limited number of species including Vibrio aestuarianus, members of the V. splendidus group, V. natriegens, V. parahaemolyticus, and Pseudoalteromonas sp. The most frequently encountered species was V. aestuarianus (56% of isolates), which was composed of several strains closely related by their 16S rRNA gene but diverse by their phenotypic characters. They appeared intimately linked to oysters. The species within the V. splendidus group were less prevalent (25% of isolates) and more taxonomically dispersed. A majority of the dominant strains of V. aestuarianus and V. splendidus group injected to oysters induced mortality, whereas others belonging to the same species, particularly those found in mixture, appeared innocuous.