SCOTLAND - Research being carried out at the Scottish Fish Immunology Research Centre at Aberdeen University could help to shed light on how to prevent fish from being damaged and infected by the parasite Sarprolegnia.
The parasite that causes Saprolegniosis that eats away at the fish has been a constant threat to the aquaculture sector since the traditional treatment of green malachite was banned from use.
The pathogen that causes the disease has been the source of constant research.
And the new research, which has been conducted by doctorate student Rodrigo Belmonte da Silva, points to certain aspects of the disease that reduce the immune response in fish and heighten inflammatory action.
Presenting a paper at the Aquaculture UK 2014 student awards sponsored by Novatis, Mr da Silva said the research had examined the gene expression from samples taken from the head kidney and gills of infected smolts and compared the results with hose from non-infected fish.
The study found strong inflammatory response and the presence of antimicrobial peptides as well as acute phase proteins produced by the infection.
However, many of the genes were also being suppressed by the pathogen including the adaptive and cellular immunity cytokines, the antigen presentation machinery and the immunoglobulin.
The fish were examined after three, seven and 12 days from the time of exposure and even after three days the infection was causing an inflammatory response while there were no signs of infection.
The research also studied further how precisely the pathogen reduced the immune response in the fish and how the immune system is compromised by Saprolegniosis.
Mr da Silva said that while attempts have been made to develop vaccines to fight the pathogen there has to date been little success and even the possibility of stress caused by the vaccination could make the situation worse.
However, he added that by looking at the suppression of the immune system caused by the pathogen progress could be made in finding a way to suppress the pathogen itself.