Perkinsus species are protistan parasites of molluscs. In Chesapeake Bay, Perkinsus marinus, Perkinsus chesapeaki, and Perkinsus andrewsi are sympatric, infecting oysters and clams. Although P. marinus is a pathogen for Crassostrea virginica, it remains unknown whether P. andrewsi and P. chesapeaki are equally pathogenic. Perkinsus species have been reported in C. virginica as far north as Maine, sometimes associated with high prevalence, but low mortality. Thus, we hypothesized that, in addition to P. marinus, Perkinsus species with little or no pathogenicity for C. virginica may be present. Accordingly, we investigated the distribution of Perkinsus species in C. virginica and Mercenaria mercenaria, collected from Maine to Virginia, by applying PCR-based assays specific for P. marinus, P. andrewsi, and a Perkinsus sp. isolated from M. mercenaria. DNA samples of M. mercenaria possessed potent PCR inhibitory activity, which was overcome by the addition of 1 mg/ml BSA and 5% (v/v) DMSO to the PCR reaction mixture. All 3 Perkinsus species were found in both host species throughout the study area. Interestingly, the prevalence of P. marinus in M. mercenaria was significantly lower than in C. virginica, suggesting that M. mercenaria is not an optimal host for P. marinus.

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