Inter-Research > DAO > v114 > n2 > p155-175  
Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 114:155-175 (2015)  -  DOI:

Whirling disease revisited: pathogenesis, parasite biology and disease intervention

Subhodeep Sarker1, Dennis Marc Kallert2, Ronald P. Hedrick3, Mansour El-Matbouli1,*

1Clinical Division of Fish Medicine, Department for Farm Animals and Veterinary Public Health, University of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinärplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria
2Department of Biology—Developmental Biology, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Staudtstrasse 5, 91058 Erlangen, Germany
3Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Whirling disease (WD) is an ecologically and economically debilitating disease of rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss caused by the actinosporean spores of the parasite Myxobolus cerebralis. M. cerebralis has a complex, 2-host life cycle alternating between salmonid fish and the oligochaete host Tubifex tubifex. The parasite alternates between 2 spore forms as transmission stages: an actinosporean triactinomyxon spore that is produced in the oligochaete host and a myxosporean spore that develops in the salmonid host. Waterborne triactinomyxon spores released from infected T. tubifex oligochaetes attach to the salmonid host by polar filament extrusion elicited by chemical (nucleoside) and mechanical (thigmotropy) stimuli—a process which is rapidly followed by active penetration of the sporoplasms into the fish epidermis. Upon penetration, sporoplasms multiply and migrate via peripheral nerves and the central nervous system to reach the cartilage where they form trophozoites which undergo further multiplication and subsequent sporogenesis. M. cerebralis myxospores are released into the aquatic environment when infected fish die and autolyse, or when they are consumed and excreted by predators. Myxospores released into the water are ingested by susceptible T. tubifex where they develop intercellularly in the intestine over a period of 3 mo through 4 developmental stages to give rise to mature actinospores. In this article, we review our current understanding of WD—the parasite and its alternate hosts, life cycle and development of the parasite in either host, disease distribution, susceptibility and resistance mechanisms in salmonid host and strategies involved in diagnosis, prevention and control of WD.

KEY WORDS: Whirling disease · Myxobolus cerebralis · Rainbow trout · Brown trout · Host-parasite interaction

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Cite this article as: Sarker S, Kallert DM, Hedrick RP, El-Matbouli M (2015) Whirling disease revisited: pathogenesis, parasite biology and disease intervention. Dis Aquat Org 114:155-175.

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