- Characterization of Mycobacterium species in laboratory zebrafish.
- Metazoan parasite communities as ecological indicators in NY fishes.
- Diagnosis and distribution of pathogens in fish populations.
- Survey and molecular analysis of parasites in fish and other wildlife.
Zebrafish have become an attractive lab animal system for bioligcal research. Like any other animals, zebrafish have diseases. Mycobacteriosis is one of the most common diseases of zebrafish (Danio rerio) used in laboratory research. The use of zebrafish in research is expanding greatly, yet little is known about the diseases that occur in these fish. This is particularly important in longterm experiments or where zebrafish are used as disease models, becausebackground infections in experimental populations can seriously compromise the validity of the research findings. I have identified several Mycobacterium species of importance in fish which I am investigating at research facilities throughout the US. Fish can be submitted for diagnosis and identification of Mycobacterium species. Contact PI Whipps for pricing.
Myxozoans are primarily parasites of fishes, but also infect amphibians, reptiles, birds, and rarely mammals. Many myxozoan infections are relatively benign suggesting a long history of coevolution with their host. However, those associated with disease and tissue damage in economically important fish species are most well known. A frequently cited example of myxozoan parasitism is whirling disease, caused by Myxobolus cerebralis in salmonid fishes. Identification of myxozoan species is primarily by spore morphology. However, classification schemes using this limited character set is inconsistent with phylogenetic relationships. My goal is to use molecular systematics to develop classification schemes that reflect shared evolutionary history as opposed to arbitrary groupings. I have collaborators in Australia, Europe, China, and India on these ongoing studies.
Parasites are an integral part of ecosystems, but their role is often overlooked. Parasites with complex life cycles can be indicators of ecological complexity, they can be used as tags for specific habitats, and they may influence fitness of their hosts. My lab group has been exploring parasites in invasive species, as indicators of habitat health, and potential zoonotic transmission.
Ichthyophonus hoferi in Alaskan fishes
The choanoflagellate parasite Ichthyophonus hoferi has been implicated in pre-spawning mortalities in returning Yukon River Chinook salmon in Alaska. Sufficient numbers of fish must be allowed to migrate upriver for productive spawning and subsistence fisheries. Thus, a potential loss due to disease must be accounted for when setting escapement goals in the lower river. However, the number of infected individuals that enter the river is difficult to evaluate as signs of disease may not be apparent at this early stage. I developed a molecular based detection method for I. hoferi and this method is ideal for rapid screening of large populations of fish to assess the distribution of I. hoferi. We also offer a diagnostic service for this parasite using culturing methods, PCR, or histology - depending on the sample collectiong method, storage, and project needs.
Other pathogens - Fish and Beyond
Parasites of amphibians in NY. Gastrointestinal parasites of coyotes in NY. Distribution of Dicrocoelium dendriticum in NY.