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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 52:159-167 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/dao052159

Transmission of crayfish plague

Birgit Oidtmann1,*, Elke Heitz1, David Rogers2, Rudolf W. Hoffmann1

1Institute of Zoology, Fish Biology and Fish Diseases, University of Munich, Kaulbachstr. 37, 80539 Munich, Germany
2David Rogers Associates, Aquatic Biological Consultants, 9 The Moat, Castle Donington, Derby DE74 2PD, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT: Two possible means of transmission of crayfish plague were investigated: via fish (as vectors), and via crayfish (as hosts or vectors when dead). The crayfish transmission experiments focussed on both the viability of the fungus in dead crayfish when kept in simulated field conditions, and on the treatments which kill viable forms of Aphanomyces astaci within the recently dead host (cadaver). It was found that A. astaci remains viable for 5 d, and possibly longer in crayfish kept in water at 21°C after dying of crayfish plague. Heating (boiling for 1 min) was the quickest way of decontaminating crayfish cadavers. Freezing took considerably longer: after 48 h at -20°C, viable stages were still present. It was also found that A. astaci is unlikely to survive passage of the gastrointestinal tract of either mammals or birds as no viable stages were found after 12 h at 37°C. Two basic modes of transmission of crayfish plague via fish were investigated: (1) after passage of initially viable forms of A. astaci through the digestive tract of fish and (2) via fish skin. If A. astaci was fed to fish as infected abdominal cuticle, it was still viable after passage through the gastrointestinal tract. When pure mycelium or spores were fed to fish there was no indication of viable forms of A. astaci after passage through the gastrointestinal tract. Transmission via fish skin was not observed under the experimental conditions applied. The results on fish as vectors have practical importance for fish transport and stocking because the present study shows that there is a risk of transmission of crayfish plague via fish faeces. The investigation of crayfish as vectors delivers methods that could be used for treatment of crayfish imported for human consumption into crayfish-plague-free areas. This application is particularly important for the importation of American crayfish, which are in general suspected to carry A. astaci in their cuticle.

KEY WORDS: Aphanomyces astaci · Crayfish plague · Vectors · Crayfish · Transmission · Fish · Fish transport · Disinfection

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