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Open Access Research

Nucleospora cyclopteri n. sp., an intranuclear microsporidian infecting wild lumpfish, Cyclopterus lumpus L., in Icelandic waters

Mark A Freeman1*, Jacob M Kasper23 and Árni Kristmundsson4

Author Affiliations

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

2 Marine Research Institute, Skúlagata 4, 101, Reykjavík, Iceland

3 BioPol, Einbúastígur 2, 545, Skagaströnd, Iceland

4 Institute for Experimental Pathology, University of Iceland, Keldur v/Vesturlandsveg, 112, Reykjavik, Iceland

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Parasites & Vectors 2013, 6:49  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-6-49

Published: 27 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Commercial fisheries of lumpfish Cyclopterus lumpus have been carried out in Iceland for centuries. Traditionally the most valuable part is the eggs which are harvested for use as a caviar substitute.

Previously reported parasitic infections from lumpfish include an undescribed intranuclear microsporidian associated with abnormal kidneys and mortalities in captive lumpfish in Canada. During Icelandic lumpfish fisheries in spring 2011, extensive enlargements to the kidneys were observed in some fish during processing. The aim of this study was to identify the pathogen responsible for these abnormalities.

Methods

Lumpfish from the Icelandic coast were examined for the causative agent of kidney enlargement. Fish were dissected and used in histological and molecular studies.

Results

Lumpfish, with various grades of clinical signs, were observed at 12 of the 43 sites sampled around Iceland. From a total of 77 fish examined, 18 had clear clinical signs, the most prominent of which was an extensive enlargement and pallor of the kidneys. The histopathology of the most severely affected fish consisted of extensive degeneration and necrosis of kidney tubules and vacuolar degeneration of the haematopoietic tissue. Intranuclear microsporidians were detected in all organs examined in fish with prominent clinical signs and most organs of apparently healthy fish using the new PCR and histological examination. One or multiple uniformly oval shaped spores measuring 3.12 ± 0.15 × 1.30 ± 0.12 μm were observed in the nucleus of affected lymphocytes and lymphocyte precursor cells. DNA sequencing provided a ribosomal DNA sequence that was strongly supported in phylogenetic analyses in a clade containing other microsporidian parasites from the Enterocytozoonidae, showing highest similarity to the intranuclear microsporidian Nucleospora salmonis.

Conclusions

Intranuclear microsporidian infections are common in wild caught lumpfish from around the Icelandic coast. Infections can cause severe clinical signs and extensive histopathological changes, but are also present, at lower levels, in fish that do not show clinical signs. Some common features exist with the intranuclear microsporidian previously reported from captive Canadian lumpfish, but DNA sequence data is required from Canadian fish to confirm conspecificity.

Based on phylogenetic analysis and the intranuclear location of the parasite, the name Nucleospora cyclopteri n. sp. is proposed.

Keywords:
Lumpfish; Cyclopterus lumpus; Intranuclear; Microsporidia; Nucleospora; Lymphocyte; Clinical signs; Kidney