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Mycobacterial infection in Northern snakehead (Channa argus) from the Potomac River catchment

October 16, 2015

The Northern snakehead, Channa argus (Cantor), is a non-native predatory fish that has become established regionally in some temperate freshwater habitats within the United States. Over the past decade, Northern snakehead populations have developed within aquatic ecosystems throughout the eastern USA, including the Potomac River system within Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Since this species was initially observed in this region in 2002, the population has expanded considerably (Odenkirk & Owens 2007). In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, populations of Northern snakehead exist in the lower Potomac River and Rappahannock Rivers on the Western shore of the Bay, and these fish have also been found in middle or upper reaches of river systems on the Eastern shore of the Bay, including the Nanticoke and Wicomico Rivers among others. Over the past several years, many aspects of Northern snakehead life history in the Potomac River have been described, including range and dispersal patterns, microhabitat selection and diet (Lapointe, Thorson & Angermeier 2010; Saylor, Lapointe & Angermeier 2012; Lapointe, Odenkirk & Angermeier 2013). However, comparatively little is known about their health status including susceptibility to parasitism and disease and their capacity to serve as reservoirs of disease for native wildlife. Although considered hardy by fisheries biologists, snakehead fish have demonstrated susceptibility to a number of described piscine diseases within their native range and habitat in Asia. Reported pathogens of significance in snakehead species in Asia include snakehead rhabdovirus (Lio-Po et al. 2000), aeromonad bacteria (Zheng, Cao & Yang 2012), Nocardia (Wang et al. 2007) andMycobacterium spp. (Chinabut, Limsuwan & Chantatchakool 1990; ). Mycobacterial isolates recovered from another snakehead species (Channa striata) in the previous studies have included M. marinum and M. fortuitum, as identified through molecular-based diagnostics (Puttinaowarat et al. 2002). We have conducted health screenings of Northern snakehead from the Potomac River system over the past several years and have detected few associated pathogens. Typical observations have largely consisted of incidental identification of parasitism with protozoal, monogenean or trematode organisms (unpublished data). We have also identified largemouth bass virus (LMBV) in clinically normal Northern snakehead collected from the Potomac River (Iwanowicz et al. 2013). Continued research concerning these and other pathogens of this introduced species is important to fully understand the potential impacts of these fish on indigenous wildlife and aquatic ecosystems.

Publication Year 2016
Title Mycobacterial infection in Northern snakehead (Channa argus) from the Potomac River catchment
DOI 10.1111/jfd.12412
Authors Christine L. Densmore, Luke R. Iwanowicz, Anne Henderson, Deborah D. Iwanowicz, J.S. Odenkirk
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Fish Diseases
Index ID 70159637
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Leetown Science Center; Contaminant Biology Program