In microbial infections, the interaction between microorganisms and phagocytic cells is a crucial determinant in the outcome of the disease process. We used flow cytometry to study the in vitro interactions between Vibrio tapetis, the bacterium responsible for Brown Ring Disease (BRD) in the Manila clam Ruditapes philippinarum, and haemocytes from three bivalve species: the Manila clam (susceptible to BRD), the hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria and the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica (both non-susceptible to BRD). Results demonstrated that V. tapetis cells and extracellular prodects elicit major changes in the haemocytes of R. philippinarum, including decreased viability and phagocytic activity, and altered size and internal structure. V. tapetis was able to kill haemocytes from M. mercenaria and C. virginica but to a far lesser extent than those of R. philippinarum. These results suggest that disease resistance is not solely dependent on a host activity against the pathogen, but is also a function and magnitude of the injury to the host cell by a given pathogen.