Myxobolus cerebralis, the myxosporean parasite that causes whirling disease, has a number of deleterious effects on its salmonid host. Although it is well established that juvenile salmonids in the active stages of whirling disease mount an immune response to the pathogen, the occurrence and longevity of any related immunomodulatory effects are unknown. In this study, postyearling rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss infected with M. cerebralis were examined for leukocyte functions and for resistance to Yersinia ruckeri, a bacterial pathogen of salmonids. Compared with uninfected controls, M. cerebralis-infected fish showed lower proliferative lymphocyte responses to four mitogens (concanavalin A, pokeweed mitogen, phytohemagglutinin, and lipopolysaccharide). Conversely, M. cerebralis-infected fish displayed greater bactericidal activity of anterior kidney macrophages than did uninfected fish. After bath challenges with K. ruckeri, M. cerebralis-infected fish had slightly lower survival and a more rapid onset of mortality than did the control fish. Renal tissue and fecal samples from M. cerebralis-infected and uninfected survivors were cultured for the presence of K. ruckeri, and no difference in prevalence was noted between the two groups. Because immunomodulatory changes in the M. cerebralis-infected fish involved functional enhancement and suppression of different leukocyte populations, disease resistance among M. cerebralis-infected fish in the later stages of whirling disease will probably vary with the secondary pathogen and the nature of immune response the pathogen evokes.
Additional publication details
Immunomodulation and disease resistance in postyearling rainbow trout infected with Myxobolus cerebralis, the causative agent of whirling disease