Time course of necrotizing hepatopancreatitis (NHP) in experimentally infected Litopenaeus vannamei and quantification of NHP-bacterium using real-time PCR

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Necrotizing hepatopancreatitis (NHP), a severe bacterial disease affecting penaeid shrimp aquaculture, is caused by a gram-negative, pleomorphic, intracellular alpha-proteobacterium referred to as the NHP-bacterium (NHPB). The time course of NHP was investigated in experimentally infected juveniles of Kona stock Litopenaeus vannamei. Susceptible animals were individually isolated in 4 l of aerated artificial seawater at salinity 30 +/- 1 ppt and maintained in a water bath at 30 +/- 1 degrees C for 60 d. A total of 120 individuals were exposed per os to a 0.05 g piece of NHPB-infected hepatopancreas and 100 controls were exposed to uninfected tissue. At intervals of 3, 6, 9, 16, 23, 30, 37, 44, and 53 d post-exposure, 6 shrimp exposed to NHPB-infected tissue and 4 controls were randomly removed from the experiment; hepatopancreas samples were processed for histological and molecular analysis, and feces were processed for molecular diagnosis of NHPB infection. NHPB was first detected in the hepatopancreas through histology at 6 d post-exposure. All control shrimp were diagnosed as NHPB negative. NHPB infections classified as stage I (scattering of hepatopancreatic tubules with adjacent epithelial cells containing NHPB) and stage II (numerous infected tubules with occasional hemocyte infiltration) were observed from 6 to 37 d post-exposure. All animals that experienced NHPB-induced mortality from 16 to 51 d post-exposure were at stage III (numerous necrotic tubules, dense hemocyte infiltration, and presence of granulomas). NHPB is capable of infecting all hepatopancreatic cell types including embryonic, resorptive, fibrillar and blister-like cells. The percent of hepatopancreatic tubules containing NHPB in epithelial cells increased over time, representing bacteria multiplication and spread. Real-time PCR allowed for quantification of NHPB in hepatopancreas and feces. Over the course of infection, NHPB was present at 103 to 107 copies mg(-1) of hepatopancreas and 10(1) to 10(5) copies mg(-1) of feces. Lethal infections contained 106 to 107 copies mg-1 of hepatopancreas and 103 to 106 copies mg(-1) of feces.

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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms





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