Relationships between macroinvertebrates and microorganisms in aquatic environments are only poorly understood despite the fact that many aquatic macroinvertebrates feed on microbial biofilms during some life stage. Better understanding of trophic interactions between microbial biofilms, macroinvertebrates, and fish may also help control fish diseases and loss of natural resources. It has also been suggested that pollution, habitat fragmentation, and poor water quality may contribute to increased pathogenesis and mortality in fish. Increased disease incidence is difficult to assess, however, in part because of the complexity of pathogen transmission dynamics. Several environmental pathogens exist whose reservoir (s) and means of transmission remain poorly understood, highlighting the need to study pathogen ecology and interactions with organisms other than susceptible hosts. Aeromonas salmonicida is rarely isolated from freshwater sediments. However, stonefly nymphs were found to frequently harbor A. salmonicida and were shown to preferentially feed on the bacterium. Rainbow trout juveniles were presented with different feeding regimes to determine the transmission capacity of nymphs, and all fish fed stoneflies harboring A. salmonicida expressed symptoms of disease. Although current rates of furunculosis in freshwater ecosystems are unknown, trout primarily feed on stoneflies when water oxygen levels are high and temperatures are low (winter months), which is presumed to correspond to high resistance to the pathogen. Given that furunculosis is associated with physiological stress and higher water temperatures, its natural incidence may change in response to global or regional climatological effects.
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