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The concept of polymicrobial disease is well accepted in human and veterinary medicine but has received very little attention in the field of aquaculture. This study was conducted to investigate the synergistic effect of white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) and Vibrio campbellii on development of disease in specific pathogen-free (SPF) shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei. The juvenile shrimp were first injected with WSSV at a dose of 30 SID50 shrimp−1 (SID50 = shrimp infectious dose with 50% endpoint) and 24 h later with 106 colony-forming units (cfu) of V. campbellii shrimp−1. Controls receiving just one of the pathogens or negative inocula were included. In the treatment with WSSV only, shrimp started to die at 48–108 h post injection (hpi) and cumulative mortality reached 100% at 268–336 hpi. In the treatment with only V. campbellii injection (106 cfu shrimp−1), cumulative mortality reached 16.7%. Shrimp in the dual treatment died very quickly after V. campbellii injection and 100% cumulative mortality was obtained at 72–96 hpi. When WSSV-injected shrimp were given sonicated V. campbellii instead of live V. campbellii, no synergistic effect was observed. Density of V. campbellii in the haemolymph of co-infected moribund shrimp collected 10 h after V. campbellii injection was significantly higher than in shrimp injected with V. campbellii only (P < 0.01). However, there was no difference in WSSV replication between shrimp inoculated with WSSV only compared with dually inoculated ones. This study revealed that prior infection with WSSV enhances the multiplication and disease inducing capacity of V. campbellii in shrimp.