This paper describes the utility of dead shrimp samples in epidemiological investigations of the white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) and chronic bacterial infections. A longitudinal observational study was undertaken in shrimp farms in Kundapur, Karnataka, India, from September 1999 to April 2000 to identify risk factors associated with outbreaks of white spot disease (WSD) in cultured Penaeus monodon. As a part of the larger study, farmers were trained to collect and preserve dead and moribund shrimp (when observed) during the production cycle. At the end of the production cycle, 73 samples from 50 ponds had been collected for histopathology and 55 samples from 44 ponds for PCR. Intranuclear viral inclusion bodies diagnostic of WSSV infection were detected in dead samples from 32 ponds (64%). Samples of dead shrimp from 18 ponds (36%) showed no histopathological evidence of WSSV infection. However, of these, samples from 13 ponds (26%) showed clear evidence of shell, oral, enteric and systemic chronic inflammatory lesions (CIL) in the form of haemocytic nodules, typical of bacterial infection. Samples from 5 ponds (10%) were negative for both WSSV and CIL. Samples from 8 ponds had dual WSSV and CIL, although both WSSV and CIL were only observed in the same shrimp from 1 pond. Useful information was obtained from these shrimp despite the presence of post-mortem changes. Samples from 19 ponds (43%) tested positive for WSSV by 1-step PCR and samples from an additional 10 ponds (22.7%) were positive by 2-step nested PCR. Samples from 15 ponds (34.1%) were negative for WSSV by 2-step nested PCR. There was moderate to substantial agreement between PCR and histopathology in the diagnosis of WSSV infection in dead shrimp. WSSV infection in dead shrimp was significantly associated with crop failures as defined by a shorter length of the production cycle (<90 d) and lower average weight at harvest (<22 g). WSSV infection was also associated with lower survival (<50%), but this was not significant. Ponds with CIL did not experience any crop failures, and the presence of CIL was significantly associated with successful crops. The study demonstrates that samples of dead shrimp can provide useful information for disease surveillance and epidemiological investigations of WSSV and chronic bacterial infections.