Format of Original
American Society of Parasitologists
Journal of Parasitology
Host biodiversity can impact disease risk and influence the transmission of parasitic disease. Stream sediment–dwelling worms, Tubifex tubifex (Clitellata: Oligochaeta), are the definitive host of the parasite Myxobolus cerebralis (Myxozoa: Myxosporea), which causes whirling disease in salmonid fishes. Genetic diversity of T. tubifex is correlated with host susceptibility to M. cerebralis, and mitochondrial Lineage III is generally shown to be more likely to be infected and produce the triactinomyxon (TAM) spores than other lineages. We determined the mitochondrial lineage, relative abundance, and prevalence of infection of T. tubifex collected at 3 sites in the Madison River, Montana, where previous study had shown variation in whirling disease prevalence and severity in caged trout fry. We also compared visual identification of TAMs released from cultured worms with a molecular genetic assay (diagnostic polymerase chain reaction [PCR]) for parasite detection of both infected and uninfected worms. We estimated that mitochondrial Lineage III was most abundant at the site previously shown to have high fish disease and was also most likely to be infected. The 2 techniques for detecting parasite infection did not always agree, and the likelihood of PCR (+) and spore (−) was not significantly different from PCR (−) and spore (+). Differences in the relative infection prevalence for these 2 lineages may explain the wide range of infection in natural streams.