White spot syndrome virus (WSSV), the causative agent of white spot syndrome in shrimp, has a wide host range which extends to crabs, copepods and other arthropods. In this study, benthic larvae of the mud crab Scylla serrata were captured from Taiwan's coastal waters and screened for the presence of WSSV by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and in situ hybridization. WSSV was detected in around 60% of the larvae, and this prevalence rate remained fairly constant when the captured larvae were subsequently maintained in an aerated system in the laboratory. WSSV-free larvae obtained from a hatchery were challenged by immersion in a WSSV inoculum. Fifteen days after challenge, cumulative mortality in the experimental group reached 43% compared to 20% in the control group. PCR detection of WSSV in both moribund and surviving specimens clearly implicated the virus as the cause of death in most cases. Histological and in situ hybridization data confirmed that WSSV tissue tropism in Scylla setrata crab larvae is similar to that found in shrimp.
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