Binary coded wire tags (CWTs) are used extensively for identification and management of anadromous salmonid populations. A study of bacterial kidney disease (BKD) in two brood year groups of hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha provided strong evidence that horizontal transmission of Renibacterium salmoninarum, the causative agent of BKD, might be enhanced by CWT-marking procedures. About 4 months after CWTs were implanted in the snouts of juvenile fish, 14-16 different tissues were sampled from each of 60 fish per brood year group for histological analysis. Of the fish that were positive for R. salmoninarum by histological examination, 41% (7 of 17) of the 1988 brood year fish and 24% (10 of 42) of the 1989 brood year fish had BKD lesions confined to the head near the site of tag implantation. These lesions often resulted in the destruction of tissues of one or both olfactory organs. No focal snout infections were observed in fish that had not been marked with CWTs. Further data obtained from tissue analyses by use of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and a fluorescent antibody test for detection of R. salmoninarum supported the hypothesis that infections of R. salmoninarum can be initiated in the snout tissues of CWT-marked fish and then spread to other organs. The tagging procedures might promote transmission of the pathogen among fish via contaminated tagging needles, by facilitating the entry of pathogens through the injection wound, or both. Limited evidence from this study suggested that implantation of passive integrated transponder tags in the peritoneal cavities of fish might also promote the transmission of R. salmoninarum or exacerbate existing infections. The results indicated a need for strict sanitary procedures during the tagging of fish in populations positive for R. salmoninarum to reduce the probability of enhanced horizontal transmission of the pathogen.
Additional publication details
Evidence that coded-wire-tagging procedures can enhance transmission of Renibacterium salmoninarum in chinook salmon