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Keywords:

  • bullhead;
  • Cottus gobio;
  • Cottus sp.;
  • Dermocystidium;
  • histopathology

Abstract

Bullheads, Cottus gobio, with macroscopic external cysts on the skin and fins measuring up to 3 mm in diameter were detected in the River Allen and its tributaries in southern England between 1992 and 1998. The prevalence of these cysts was up to 50% at some sites. Examination of cyst contents revealed the presence of numerous spores, typical of the genus Dermocystidium, measuring 8 μm in diameter. The parasite developed within well-defined cysts, which were located in the hypodermal connective tissues of the host. No cysts were present on the fins of any of the fish examined. Histological examination revealed a cyst wall consisting of an inner layer of dense eosinophilic material similar to that reported for Dermocystidium spp. forming coenocytic hyphae. No evidence was found of systemic infection or hyphal formation. Spores contained a prominent refractile body, which gave a weakly positive reaction for polysaccharides with the periodic-acid Schiff reaction and was positively stained with acidic dyes. Several examples of ruptured cysts were seen in histological sections and in some of these cases the host epithelial layer was breached, allowing release of the spores to the environment. Morphological features of, and host response towards, the Dermocystidium sp. in bullheads are compared with similar infections in salmonids and other freshwater fish species.