The early ultrastructural stages of Loma salmonae were studied in the gills of experimentally infected rainbow trout. No parasitic stages were identified during the first 2 wk of the infection. By week 3 postexposure (PE), uninucleate and binucleate meronts were recognized within host cells (no xenomas) associated with the capillary channels of secondary lamellae and lamellar arteries. An inflammatory reaction was absent. In secondary lamellae, infected cells were isolated from the capillary lumen, and some were recognized as pillar cells. In lamellar arteries, infected cells were localized beneath the endothelium and not in the lumen. Inflammatory reaction and destruction of parasites inside blood cells in the lumen of secondary lamellae were observed by week 4 PE. Three hypotheses, i.e., isolation, internalization, and evasion, are proposed to explain the localization of the infected cells in the gills. It is concluded that meronts are the earliest parasitic stage observed by week 3 PE, pillar cells are secondarily infected by phagocytosis of infected cells in the blood, endothelial cells of gills are not infected, and inflammatory response to the parasite starts by week 4 PE.
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