Jellyfish as vectors of bacterial disease for farmed salmon (Salmo salar)


Ferguson H, Delannoy CMJ, Hay S, Nicolson J, Sutherland D & Crumlish M (2010) Jellyfish as vectors of bacterial disease for farmed salmon (Salmo salar). Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 22 (3), pp. 376-382.

Swarms or blooms of jellyfish are increasingly problematic and can result in high mortality rates of farmed fish. Small species of jellyfish, such as Phialella quadrata (13 mm in diameter), are capable of passing through the mesh of sea cages and being sucked into the mouth of fish during respiration. Results of the current study show that the initial damage to gills of farmed Atlantic salmon, likely produced by nematocyst-derived toxins from the jellyfish, was compounded by secondary bacterial infection with Tenacibaculum maritimum. Results also demonstrate that these filamentous bacteria were present on the mouth of the jellyfish and that their DNA sequences were almost identical to those of bacteria present on the salmon gills. This suggests that the bacterial lesions were not the result of an opportunistic infection of damaged tissue, as previously thought. Instead, P. quadrata is probably acting as a vector for this particular bacterial pathogen, and it is the first time that evidence to support such a link has been presented. No prior literature describing the presence of bacteria associated with jellyfish, except studies about their decay, could be found. It is not known if all jellyfish of this and other species carry similar bacteria or the relationship to each other. Their source, the role they play under other circumstances, and indeed whether the jellyfish were themselves diseased are also not known. The high proteolytic capabilities of T. maritimum mean that partially digested gill tissues were readily available to the jellyfish, which rely heavily on intracellular digestion for their nutrition.

Bacteria; disease; fish; gills; jellyfish; salmon; vectors

Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation: Volume 22, Issue 3

Publication date31/05/2010