The occurrence of haplosporidian parasites, Haplosporidium nelsoni and Haplosporidium sp., in oysters in Ireland.
The phylum Haplosporidia is a group of obligate protozoan parasites that infect a number of freshwater and marine invertebrates. Haplosporidian parasites have caused significant mortalities in commercially important shellfish species worldwide. In this study, haplosporidia were detected in Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas originating in Ireland and were subsequently identified independently in laboratories both in Ireland and in Spain as Haplosporidium nelsoni. In Ireland, H. nelsoni plasmodia were also observed in the heart tissue of a single Ostrea edulis. A range of techniques including heart smear screening, histology, standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR), direct sequencing and in situ hybridisation with an H. nelsoni specific DNA probe were carried out to confirm diagnosis. This is the first reporting of H. nelsoni in oysters in Ireland and this is the first reporting of the detection of this haplosporidian in O. edulis. In Ireland, another haplosporidian was also observed in a single O. edulis during heart smear screening. PCR and DNA sequencing were carried out and indicated the presence of a Haplosporidium sp., most likely Haplosporidium armoricanum. The low prevalence and intensity of infection of both haplosporidian species in Irish C. gigas and in particular O. edulis may indicate that their presence is inconsequential.