DAO 44:161-170 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/dao044161

Morphological organ alterations and infectious diseases in brown trout Salmo trutta and rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss exposed to polluted river water

Heike Schmidt-Posthaus1,*, Daniel Bernet1, Thomas Wahli1, Patricia Burkhardt-Holm2

1Centre for Fish and Wildlife Health, Institute of Animal Pathology, University of Bern, Laenggass-Strasse 122, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
2EAWAG (Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology), Überlandstrasse 133, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland

ABSTRACT: Poor water quality is discussed as a major factor causing a decline of brown trout populations in Swiss rivers. For our study we have chosen a river in the Swiss midlands, where the brown trout population has decreased dramatically during the last 10 yr and where feral fish have shown distinctive pathological alterations. The objective of our study was to investigate whether river water may be responsible for impaired fish health leading to an increased mortality in the river. In an active monitoring program, groups of brown and rainbow trout were exposed to polluted river water for 24 mo. Fish held in tap water served as a reference. Mortality, macroscopic and histopathologic changes, and infectious agents were investigated. Compared with the reference group, high mortality rates and severe pathological alterations of the inner organs were observed in fish held in river water. Especially gills, liver and kidney of these fish showed significantly higher changes than fish from tap water. These changes were dominated by degenerative and inflammatory reactions. Additionally, several infectious agents were diagnosed in fish exposed to river water. The most important findings were furunculosis and proliferative kidney disease. Brown trout seemed to be more sensitive than rainbow trout to environmental stress and infectious agents.

KEY WORDS: River water · Brown trout · Rainbow trout · Mortality · Infectious agents · Morphological changes

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