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Open Access Research

Myxosporean hyperparasites of gill monogeneans are basal to the Multivalvulida

Mark A Freeman1* and Andrew P Shinn2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Biological Sciences & Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, 50603 Malaysia

2 Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK

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Parasites & Vectors 2011, 4:220  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-4-220

Published: 24 November 2011

Abstract

Background

Myxosporeans are known from aquatic annelids but parasitism of platyhelminths by myxosporeans has not been widely reported. Hyperparasitism of gill monogeneans by Myxidium giardi has been reported from the European eel and Myxidium-like hyperparasites have also been observed during studies of gill monogeneans from Malaysia and Japan.

The present study aimed to collect new hyperparasite material from Malaysia for morphological and molecular descriptions. In addition, PCR screening of host fish was undertaken to determine whether they are also hosts for the myxosporean.

Results

Heavy myxosporean infections were observed in monogeneans from two out of 14 fish and were detected from a further five fish using specific PCRs and pooled monogenean DNA. Positive DNA isolates were sequenced and were from a single species of myxosporean. Myxospore morphology was consistent with Myxidium with histozoic development in the parenchymal tissues of the monogenean. Simultaneous infections in the fish could not be confirmed microscopically; however, identical myxosporean DNA could be amplified from kidney, spleen and intestinal tract tissues using the specific PCR. Small subunit (SSU) rDNA for the myxosporean was amplified and was found to be most similar (92%) to that of another hyperparasitic myxosporean from a gill monogenean from Japan and to numerous multivalvulidan myxosporeans from the genus Kudoa (89-91%). Phylogenetic analyses placed the hyperparasite sequence basally to clades containing Kudoa, Unicapsula and Sphaerospora.

Conclusions

The myxosporean infecting the gill monogenean, Diplectanocotyla gracilis, from the Indo-Pacific tarpon, Megalops cyprinoides, is described as a new species, Myxidium incomptavermi, based on a histozoic development in the monogenean host and its phylogenetic placement.

We have demonstrated for the first time that a myxosporean hyperparasite of gill monogeneans is detectable in the fish host. However, myxospores could not be isolated from the fish and confirmation was by PCR alone. The relationship between the myxosporean infection in gill monogeneans and the presence of parasitic DNA in fish is not yet fully understood. Nonetheless, myxospores with a Myxidium-like morphology, two of which we have shown to be phylogenetically related, have now been reported to develop in three different gill monogeneans, indicating that myxosporeans are true parasites of monogeneans.