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Whirling Disease Dynamics: An Analysis of Intervention Strategies

10 February 2014

Whirling disease (WD), a severe and widespread disease of salmonids, is caused by the myxosporean parasite Myxobolus cerebralis, write Kimbra G. Turner, et al, University of Notre Dame, USA.

It is further characterized by a unique two-host life cycle, utilizing the oligochaete Tubifex tubifex as an intermediate host.

M. cerebralis is an invasive species that has been affecting populations in the United States including epidemics that killed in excess of 90 per cent of populations in Colorado and Montana streams within the past 20 years.

Currently, there is no known cure for WD, and the accepted method of control is removal of infected fish from the population.

We have created a compartmental model of the WD system in order to assess more efficient means of control and management of the disease.

Using data gathered from the literature, we used Bayesian model fitting to estimate model parameters and estimated that R0 ≈ 1.51 (95% CI: 1.39, 1.72), a value which implies that WD can be controlled using available strategies.

To this end, we posit several parameters that we expect to be most influential to WD propagation, namely: release of triactinomyxons by T. tubifex, release of spores by salmonids, and infectious particle loads in each respective host.

Based on currently available control strategies, approaches targeting the infectious particles and the oligochaete host appear the most effective alternative strategies for management and control of WD.

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February 2014

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