We investigated the effects of a chronic, progressive infection with Renibacterium salmoninarum (Rs), the causative agent of bacterial kidney disease (BKD), on selected aspects of smoltification in yearling juvenile spring chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). After experimentally infecting fish with Rs using an immersion challenge, we sampled them every two weeks to monitor changes in gill Na+, K+-ATPase (ATPase), cortisol, infection level, mortality, growth, and other stress-related physiological factors during the normal time of parr-smolt transformation in fresh water (i.e., from winter to spring). A progressively worsening infection with Rs did not alter the normal changes in gill ATPase and condition factor associated with smoltification in juvenile chinook salmon. The infection did, however, lead to elevated levels of plasma cortisol and lactate and depressed levels of plasma glucose, indicating that the disease is stressful during the later stages. A dramatic proliferation of BKD was associated with maximal responses of indicators of smoltification, suggesting that the process of smoltification itself can trigger outbreaks of disease. Our results suggest mechanisms that probably influence the reported inability of Rs-infected fish to successfully adapt to sea water.
Additional publication details
Influence of bacterial kidney disease on smoltification in salmonids: Is it a case of double jeopardy?