Quantification of Photobacterium swingsii and Characterisation of Disease Progression in the New Zealand Greenshell™ Mussel, Perna canaliculus
Greenshell™ mussels (Perna canaliculus) are endemic to New Zealand and support the largest aquaculture industry in the country. Photobacterium swingsii was isolated and identified from moribund P. canaliculus mussels following a mass mortality event. In this study, a challenge experiment was used to characterise, detect, and quantify P. swingsii in adult P. canaliculus following pathogen exposure via injection into the adductor muscle. A positive control (heat-killed P. swingsii injection) was included to account for the effects of injection and inactive bacterial exposure. Survival of control and infected mussels remained 100% during 72-hour monitoring period. Haemolymph was sampled for bacterial colony counts and haemocyte flow cytometry analyses; histology sections were obtained and processed for histopathological assessments; and adductor muscle, gill, digestive gland were sampled for quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analyses, all conducted at 12, 24, 48 h post-challenge (hpc). The most profound effects of bacterial injection on mussels were seen at 48 hpc, where mussel mortality, haemocyte counts and haemolymph bacterial colony forming were the highest. The quantification of P. swingsii via qPCR showed highest levels of bacterial DNA at 12 hpc in the adductor muscle, gill, and digestive gland. Histopathological observations suggested a non-specific inflammatory response in all mussels associated with a general stress response. This study highlights the physiological effects of P. swingsii infection in P. canaliculus mussels and provides histopathological insight into the tissue injury caused by the action of injection into the adductor muscle. The multi-technique methods used in this study can be applied for use in early surveillance programs of bacterial infection on mussel farms.