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Increasing intensities of Anisakis simplex third-stage larvae (L3) in Atlantic salmon of coastal waters of Scotland

  Background: Red Vent Syndrome (RVS), a haemorrhagic inflammation of the vent region in Atlantic salmon, is associated with high abundance of Anisakis simplex (s.s.) third-stage larvae (L3) in the vent region. Despite evidence suggesting that increasing A. simplex (s.s.) intensity is a causative factor in RVS aetiology, the definitive cause remains unclear.

Methods: A total of 117 Atlantic salmon were sampled from commercial fisheries on the East, West, and North coasts of Scotland and examined for ascaridoid parasites. Genetic identification of a subsample of Anisakis larvae was per-formed using the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of ribosomal DNA. To assess the extent of differentiation of feeding grounds and dietary composition, stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen was carried out on Atlantic salmon muscle tissue.

Results: In the present study, the obtained ITS rDNA sequences matched A. simplex (s.s.) sequences deposited in GenBank at 99–100%. Not all isolated larvae (n=30,406) were genetically identified. Therefore, the morphotype found in this study is referred to as A. simplex (sensu lato). Anisakis simplex (s.l.) was the most prevalent (100%) nematode with the highest mean intensity (259.9 ±197.3), in comparison to Hysterothylacium aduncum (66.7%, 6.4 ± 10.2) and Pseudoterranova decipiens (s.l.) (14.5%, 1.4 ±0.6). The mean intensity of A. simplex (s.l.) represents a four-fold increase compared to published data (63.6 ±31.9) from salmon captured in Scotland in 2009. Significant positive correlations between A. simplex (s.l.) larvae intensities from the body and the vent suggest that they play a role in the emergence of RVS. The lack of a significant variation in stable isotope ratios of Atlantic salmon indicates that diet or feeding ground are not driving regional differences in A. simplex (s.l.) intensities.

Conclusions: This paper presents the most recent survey for ascaridoid parasites of wild Atlantic salmon from three coastal regions in Scotland. A significant rise in A. simplex (s.l.) intensity could potentially increase both natural mortal-ity rates of Atlantic salmon and possible risks for salmon consumers due to the known zoonotic role of A. simplex (s.s.) and A. pegreffii within the A. simplex (s.l.) species complex.

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  • Date:

    12 February 2020

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  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded; Natural Environment Research Council; New Funder


Kent, A. J., Pert, C. C., Briers, R. A., Diele, K., & Rueckert, S. (2020). Increasing intensities of Anisakis simplex third-stage larvae (L3) in Atlantic salmon of coastal waters of Scotland. Parasites & vectors, 13,



Ascaridoid nematodes, Parasites, Red Vent Syndrome, Salmo salar, Stable isotopes

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