Although vibrios are frequently associated with marine organisms mortality outbreaks, knowledge on their ecology and pathogenicity is sparse, thus limiting disease management and prophylactic strategies. Here, we investigated V. aestuarianus infection onset and progression in the wild, taking advantage of a ‘claire’ pond: a semi-closed system with limited seawater renewal, theoretically more adapted to disease transmission. We showed a positive association of the bacteria with oysters, which can constitute a reservoir for the bacteria in the winter. Moreover, passage through oysters was found to be necessary for experimental disease reproduction as vibrios shedding from diseased oysters have higher infectivity than from in vitro grown. We next developed an experimental ‘ecologically realistic’ infection model in a mesocosm, allowing infection by natural route. By means of this non-invasive protocol, we analysed the pathogenesis of the bacteria and demonstrated the importance of haemolymph for initial colonization and the septicaemic nature of this disease.