Vibrio tubiashii has recently re-emerged as a pathogen of bivalve larvae, causing a marked increase in the mortality of these species within shellfish rearing facilities. This has resulted in substantial losses of seed production and thus created the need for specific as well as sensitive detection methods for this pathogen. In this project, quantitative PCR (qPCR) primers were developed and optimized based upon analysis of the V. tubiashii vtpA gene sequence, encoding a metalloprotease known to cause larval mortality. Standard curves were developed utilizing dilutions of known quantities of V. tubiashii cells that were compared to colony forming unit (CFU) plate counts. The assay was optimized for detection of vtpA with both lab-grown V. tubiashii samples and filter-captured environmental seawater samples seeded with V. tubiashii. In addition, the primers were confirmed to specifically detect only V. tubiashii when tested against a variety of non-target Vibrio species. Validation of the assay was completed by analyzing samples obtained from a shellfish
hatchery. The development of this rapid and sensitive assay for quantitative detection of V. tubiashii will accurately determine levels of this bacterium in a variety of seawater samples, providing a useful tool for oyster hatcheries and a method to assess the presence of this bacterium in the current turbulent ocean environment.