White Feces Syndrome (WFS) is an emergent disease of penaeid shrimp (Penaeus monodon and P. vannamei) that is identified by the presence of floating white fecal strings on pond water in grow-out ponds. Although the clinical manifestations of WFS are well defined, the underling etiology remains obscure. WFS has been associated with several enteric pathogens, including Enterocytozoon hepatopenaei (EHP). The association is based on studies that found areas where WFS has been reported, the prevalence and severity of EHP infection are high. In this study, we describe an experimental reproduction of WFS in P. vannamei pre-infected with EHP and challenged with a unique isolate of Vibrio parahaemolyticus isolated from the gastrointestinal tract of a shrimp displaying WFS. Upon laboratory challenge, shrimp displaying white fecal strings and white discoloration of the gastrointestinal tract were analyzed by histopathology, in-situ hybridization and quantitative PCR. Histological analysis confirmed the lesions of EHP and septic hepatopancreatic necrosis in the hepatopancreas of shrimp exposed to both pathogens. Quantitative PCR showed shrimp infected with both EHP and V. parahaemolyticus had a significantly higher load of EHP compared to shrimp infected with EHP alone. This is the first demonstration of experimental reproduction of WFS under laboratory conditions when animals are infected with EHP and V. parahaemolyticus concurrently. The data revealed a synergistic relation between EHP and V. parahaemolyticus isolate that led to the manifestation of WFS. We propose the gross signs of WFS can be used as an indicator of the presence of EHP infection in association with a particular strain of an enteric Vibrio spp. in countries where EHP is endemic.
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