The advent of molecular detection assays has provided a set of very sensitive tools for the detection of pathogens in marine organisms, but it has also raised problems of how to interpret positive signals that are not accompanied by visual confirmation. PCR-positive results have recently been reported for Haplosporidium nelsoni (MSX), a pathogen of the oyster Crassostrea virginica in 31 of 40 oysters from 6 sites in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Histological confirmation of the PCR results was not undertaken, and no haplosporidian has been reported from the numerous histological studies and surveys of oysters in the region. To further investigate the possibility that H. nelsoni is present in this region, we sampled 210 oysters from 40 sites around the Gulf of Mexico and Puerto Rico using PCR and 180 of these using tissue-section histology also. None of the oysters showed evidence of H. nelsoni by PCR or of any haplosporidian by histology. We cannot, therefore, confirm that H. nelsoni is present and widespread in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Our results do not prove that H. nelsoni is absent from the region, but taken together with results from previous histological surveys, they suggest that for the purposes of controlling oyster importation, the region should continue to be considered free of the parasite.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Crassostrea virginica
- Molecular detection
- Shellfish importation