Environmental distribution and persistence of Quahog Parasite Unknown (QPX). Academic Article uri icon


  • Quahog Parasite Unknown (QPX) is the cause of mass mortality events of hard clams Mercenaria mercenaria from Virginia, USA, to New Brunswick, Canada. Aquaculture areas in Massachusetts, USA, have been particularly hard hit. The parasite has been shown to be a directly infective organism, but it is unclear whether it could exist or persist outside of its clam host. We used molecular methods to examine water, sediment, seaweeds, seagrass and various invertebrates for the presence of QPX. Sites in Virginia and Massachusetts were selected based upon the incidence of QPX-induced clam die-offs, and they were monitored seasonally. QPX was detectable in almost all of our different sample types from Massachusetts, indicating that the parasite was widely distributed in the environment. Significantly more samples from Massachusetts were positive than from Virginia, and there was a seasonal pattern to the types of samples positive from Massachusetts. The data suggest that, although it may be difficult to completely eradicate QPX from the environment, it may be possible to keep the incidence of disease under control through good plot husbandry and the removal of infected and dying clams.

publication date

  • September 24, 2008