Advances in mollusk parasite culturing methods drives research

Jul 08, 2014

Researchers at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences dug into the last 70 years of peer-reviewed publications about protozoan parasites that infest bivalve mollusks and found that when an organism can be cultured in the laboratory, more papers and greater understanding result. Senior Research Scientists, José Fernández Robledo and Nicholas Record co-authored an analysis of peer-reviewed publications since 1950 and reported their findings in the June 23 edition of PLOS ONE, an open access journal covering broad aspects of basic and applied biology.

Fernández-Robledo and Record partnered with Dr. Gerardo R. Vasta of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology of the University of Maryland, Baltimore to identify potential milestone discoveries or achievements in the field that may have driven the intensity of the research in subsequent years and significantly increased publication rates by 3-10 fold and promoted investigations into the basic biology of the parasites. 1950 was chosen as the starting date because it was the first year a description of protozoan parasite Perkinsus marinus was recorded and associated with a mass mortality of eastern oysters in the Gulf coast region. Perkinsus is one of four major genus included in the study. The others are Haplosporidium, Marteilia, and Bonamia.

"These parasites are globally recognized as major threats to natural and farmed bivalve populations, " explains Fernández-Robledo. "The more we learn about how they function, interact, and evolve, the greater the likelihood that we can figure out how to control their spread in important food resources. Over the past 70 years, we've tripled what is known about mollusk parasites by successfully culturing and conducting experiments on the laboratory bench." Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences has cultured parasitic hosts in its East Boothbay facility and is leading research on parasites that infect bivalve mollusks.

Certain parasite species such as Perkinsus marinus, Perkinsus olseni, Marteilia refringens, Bonamia ostreae and Bonamia exitiosa infect abalones, clams, mussels, oyster, and scallops around the world and cause mass mortalities that are especially devastating for aquacultures and commercial harvesting.

The researchers systematically analyzed the literature and found that advances in parasite purification and culture methodologies positively increased publication rates, which often resulted in new molecular tools and resources. Cultures have accelerated screening for drugs effective against specific parasites, and identified mechanisms that parasites use to enter, survive, multiply, and, eventually, kill oysters. Because of what has been learned, scientists are now able to characterize parasite strains from different locations in the United States, helping to define under what circumstances a strain may become virulent and to identify oyster strains that can be resistant to resident parasites.

This study is the first to provide a side-by-side comparison of the publication records for the four main genera of protozoan affecting mollusks. Its conclusions may be used as tool to help researchers fine-tune their research projects to gain continued funding, for students entering the field to narrow their research focus, and for state and local agencies to prioritize research efforts and funds It also shows that early efforts supporting the development of cultures methodologies (basic science) results in a large body of knowledge toward new intervention strategies against disease (applied science).

Explore further: Parasite-free honey bees enable study of bee health

Related Stories

Parasite-free honey bees enable study of bee health

Jul 01, 2014

An international team of researchers has discovered honey bee colonies in Newfoundland, Canada, that are free of the invasive parasites that affect honey bees elsewhere in the world. The populations offer ...

New strategy emerges for fighting drug-resistant malaria

Jan 15, 2014

Malaria is one of the most deadly infectious diseases in the world today, claiming the lives of over half a million people every year, and the recent emergence of parasites resistant to current treatments ...

Malaria parasite manipulates host's scent

Jun 30, 2014

Malaria parasites alter the chemical odor signal of their hosts to attract mosquitos and better spread their offspring, according to researchers, who believe this scent change could be used as a diagnostic ...

Recommended for you

Godwits are flexible... when they get the chance

19 minutes ago

Black-tailed godwits are able to cope with unpredictable weather. This was revealed by a thorough analysis of the extraordinary spring of 2013 by ecologist Nathan Senner of the University of Groningen and ...

Do you have the time? Flies sure do

12 hours ago

Flies might be smarter than you think. According to research reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 28, fruit flies know what time of day it is. What's more, the insects can learn to con ...

Barking characterizes dogs as voice characterizes people

15 hours ago

An international group of researchers has conducted a study on canine behavior showing that gender, age, context and individual recognition can be identified with a high percentage of success through statistical ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.