The objective of this study was to quantify and determine the periodicity in the release of the triactinomyxon (TAM) stage of Myxobolus cerebralis, the causative agent of salmonid whirling disease, by its aquatic oligochaete host Tubifex tubifex. For this, 24 individual T. tubifex (infected as a group at 15 C) were examined daily for the release of M. cerebralis TAMs, and the number of waterborne TAMs released by each worm was quantified. The duration of the infection in these worms was also monitored using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic test. TAMs were first released 74 days postexposure (PE) and continued to be released until 132 days PE. During this period, each worm released on average, 1.5 × 103 waterborne TAMs 12 times; however, no pattern or periodicity was noted. The results of the PCR diagnostic tests conducted at 5, 7, 9, and 15 mo PE were positive, and the persistent infection was confirmed at 606 days PE (approximately 20 mo) when the remaining worms began releasing TAMs again. Similar results were observed in naturally infected T. tubifex, indicating that these worms remain infected for the duration of their natural lifespan and are capable of shedding viable TAMs, in temporally separate periods. These findings open the possibility of a seasonal periodicity in TAM release by T. tubifex.
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