The toxic dinoflagellate, Pfiesteria piscicida, is widely blamed for adverse human health effects, acute fish kills and skin lesion events in fishes, particularly menhaden, Brevoortia tyrannis, inhabiting coastal waters from Delaware to North Carolina, USA. In response, the authors initiated studies to clarify the etiology and pathogenesis of presumed ‘Pfiesteria-specific’ menhaden skin lesions. Histopathologically, all lesions (>150 fish examined) were associated with a highly invasive and pathogenic fungus eliciting severe tissue necrosis and intense granulomatous inflammation. Severity and extent of the host response indicates that ulcers were at least 1 week old or older. Maryland and Virginia currently use menhaden ulcers as one of several indicators of local Pfiesteria activity. However, their chronic nature, advanced age, and consistent fungal involvement suggest that their use for this purpose may not be valid. The authors recently isolated an Aphanomyces sp. from the menhaden lesions which by appearance in culture, temperature growth curves, pathogenicity studies in snakehead and positive immunohistochemical staining with polyclonal antibodies suggest the infectious agent is A. invadans (cause of epizootic ulcerative syndrome in Asia, Japan and Australia) or a very closely related species. Ongoing research will address pathogenicity of the fungus in menhaden, genetic comparisons of isolates, and the role of environmental stressors, including P. piscicida, in initiation of the infection.
Blazer, V.; Vogelbein, W.K.; Densmore, C.; Kator, H.; Zwerner, D.; Lilley, J. Etiology and pathogenesis of skin ulcers in menhaden, Brevoortia tyrannis: does Pfiesteria piscicida play a role? Marine Environmental Research (2000) 50 (1-5) 487-488. [DOI: 10.1016/S0141-1136(00)00231-2]