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Comparison of the metal accumulation capacity between the acanthocephalan Pomphorhynchus laevis and larval nematodes of the genus Eustrongylides sp. infecting barbel (Barbus barbus)

Milen Nachev*, Gerhard Schertzinger and Bernd Sures

Author Affiliations

Aquatische Ökologie (Aquatic ecology) and Zentrum für Wasser- und Umweltforschung (ZWU), Universität Duisburg-Essen, Universitätsstraße 5, D-45141, Essen, Germany

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Parasites & Vectors 2013, 6:21  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-6-21

Published: 18 January 2013



Metal uptake and accumulation in fish parasites largely depends on the parasite group with acanthocephalans showing the highest accumulation rates. Additionally, developmental stage (larvae or adult) as well as parasite location in the host are suggested to be decisive factors for metal bioconcentration in parasites. By using barbel (Barbus barbus) simultaneously infected with nematode larvae in the body cavity and adult acanthocephalans in the intestine, the relative importance of all of these factors was compared in the same host.


Eleven elements Arsenic (As), Cadmium (Cd), Cobalt (Co), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Lead (Pb), Selenium (Se), Tin (Sn), Vanadium (V) and Zinc (Zn) were analyzed in barbel tissues (muscle, intestine, liver) as well as in their acanthocephalan parasites Pomphorhynchus laevis and the larval nematode Eustrongylides sp. (L4) using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).


Nine elements were detected in significantly higher levels in the parasites compared to host tissues. The element composition among parasites was found to be strongly dependent on parasite taxa/developmental stage and localization within the host. Intestinal acanthocephalans accumulated mainly toxic elements (As, Cd, Pb), whereas the intraperitoneal nematodes bioconcentrated essential elements (Co, Cu, Fe, Se, Zn).


Our results suggest that in addition to acanthocephalans, nematodes such as Eustrongylides sp. can also be applied as bioindicators for metal pollution. Using both parasite taxa simultaneously levels of a wide variety of elements (essential and non essential) can easily be obtained. Therefore this host-parasite system can be suggested as an appropriate tool for future metal monitoring studies, if double infected fish hosts are available.

Pomphorhynchus laevis; Eustrongylides sp.; Heavy metals; Pollution; Bioindication