Immune reactivity in early life stages of sea-cage cultured Pacific bluefin tuna naturally infected with blood flukes from genus Cardicola (Trematoda: Aporocotylidae)
Pennacchi, Y and Shirakashi, S and Nowak, BF and Bridle, AR, Immune reactivity in early life stages of sea-cage cultured Pacific bluefin tuna naturally infected with blood flukes from genus Cardicola (Trematoda: Aporocotylidae), Fish and Shellfish Immunology, 58 pp. 490-499. ISSN 1050-4648 (2016) [Refereed Article]
Pacific bluefin tuna (PBT), Thunnus orientalis, due to its high average price on the market is an economically valuable fish species. Infections by blood flukes from the genus Cardicola (Trematoda: Aporocotylidae) represent a growing concern for the cage culture of bluefin tuna in Japan, Australia and Southern Europe. The accumulation of numerous Cardicola eggs in the fish gills causes severe pathology that has been linked to mortality in PBT juveniles up to one year old. The only effective treatment used to mitigate the infection is the oral administration of the antihelminthic drug praziquantel (PZQ) to the affected fish. However, with the need to minimise therapeutic drug use in aquaculture it is hoped that immunoprophylaxis can provide a future alternative to protect the PBT juveniles against Cardicola infection. Currently, little is known of the host immune response to these parasites and of their infection dynamics. In this study, using real-time qPCR we aimed to quantitatively detect C. orientalis and C. opisthorchis DNA within the gills and heart of cultured PBT juveniles and to investigate the host immune response at the transcriptional level in the gills. The research focused mainly during early stages of infection soon after young PBT were transferred to culture cages (from 14 to 77 days post-transfer). An increase (up to 11-fold) of immune-related genes, namely IgM, MHC-I, TCR-β and IL-1β was observed in the PBT gills infected with Cardicola spp. (28–77 days post-transfer). Furthermore, IgM (19-fold increase) and MHC-I (11.5-fold increase) transcription was strongly up-regulated in gill samples of PBT infected with C. orientalis relative to uninfected fish but not in fish infected with C. opisthorchis. Cardicola-specific DNA was first detected in the host 14 days post-transfer (DPT) to sea-cages which was 55 days earlier than the first detection of parasite eggs and adults by microscopy. Oral administration of PZQ did not have an immediate effect on parasite DNA presence in the host and the DNA presence started to reduce after 24 days only in the host heart. The results provide evidence of an immune response in early age sea-cage cultured juveniles of PBT naturally infected with C. orientalis and C. opisthorchis. This response, whilst not protective against primary infection, provides evidence that immunisation at an early age may have potential as a health strategy.