A parasite outbreak in notothenioid fish in an Antarctic fjord

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  • Thomas Desvignes, University of Oregon, United States
  • Henrik Lauridsen
  • Alejandro Valdivieso, Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC), Spain
  • Rafaela Fontenele, Center for Evolution and Medicine and School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA, United States
  • Simona Kraberger, Center for Evolution and Medicine and School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA, United States
  • Katrina N. Murray, University of Oregon, United States
  • Nathalie R. Le Francois, Laboratoire Physiologie, Aquaculture et Conservation, Biodôme de Montréal, Canada
  • H William Detrich, Northeastern University, United States
  • Michael L. Kent, Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University, United States
  • Arvind Varsani, Center for Evolution and Medicine and School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA, Department of Integrative Biomedical Sciences, University of Cape Town, United States
  • John Postlethwait, University of Oregon, United States
Climate changes can promote disease outbreaks, but their nature and potential impacts in remote areas have received little attention. In a hot spot of biodiversity on the West Antarctic Peninsula, which faces among the fastest changing climates on Earth, we captured specimens of two notothenioid fish species affected by large skin tumors at an incidence never before observed in the Southern Ocean. Molecular and histopathological analyses revealed that X-cell parasitic alveolates, members of a genus we call Notoxcellia, are the etiological agent of these tumors. Parasite-specific molecular probes showed that xenomas remained within the skin but largely outgrew host cells in the dermis. We further observed that tumors induced neovascularization in underlying tissue and detrimentally affected host growth and condition. Although many knowledge gaps persist about X-cell disease, including its mode of transmission and life cycle, these findings reveal potentially active biotic threats to vulnerable Antarctic ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104588
JournaliScience
Volume25
Issue7
ISSN2589-0042
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

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