We experimentally infected juvenile spring chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha with Renibacterium salmoninarum (Rs), the causative agent of bacterial kidney disease (BKD), in order to compare the physiological responses of Rs-infected and Rs-noninfected fish to a series of multiple, acute stressors and to determine whether exposure to these stressors worsens the infection and leads to increased mortality. After subjecting groups of fish to a waterborne challenge of Rs, we sampled them biweekly to monitor infection levels, mortality, and some stress-related physiological changes. As infections worsened, fish developed decreased hematocrits and blood glucose levels and increased levels of cortisol and lactate, indicating that BKD is stressful, particularly during the later stages. Eight weeks after the challenge, when fish had moderate to high infection levels, we subjected them, along with unchallenged control fish, to three 60-s bouts of hypoxia, struggling, and mild agitation that were separated by 48-72 h. Our results indicate that the imposition of these stressors on Rs-infected fish did not lead to higher infection levels or increased mortality when compared with diseased fish that did not receive the stressors. Furthermore, the kinetics of plasma cortisol, glucose, and lactate over a 24-h period following each application of the stressor were similar between fish with moderate to high Rs infections and those that had low or no detectable infection. Some differences in the stress responses of these two groups did exist, however. Most notably, fish with moderate to high Rs infections had higher titers of cortisol and lactate prior to each application of the stressor and also were unable to consistently elicit a significant hyperglycemia in response to the stressors. Collectively, our results should be important in understanding the impact that BKD has on the survival of juvenile salmonids, but we caution that our results represent the combined effects of one type of stressor and one disease only and probably cannot be applied to other scenarios.
Additional publication details
Interaction of infection with Renibacterium salmoninarum and physical stress in juvenile chinook salmon: Physiological responses, disease progression, and mortality