Double trouble: could Ichthyophthirius multifiliis be a vehicle for the bacterium associated with red mark syndrome in rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss?

Chiara Pasqualetti, Jacob Günther Schmidt, Alessandra Cafiso, Leandro Gammuto, Olivia Lanzoni, Dagoberto Sepulveda, Amedeo Manfrin, Lisandro Benedetti Cecchi, Niels Jørgen Olesen, Chiara Bazzocchi*, Giulio Petroni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Red mark syndrome (RMS) is a disease of farmed rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum, 1792), one of the most widespread freshwater farmed species in Europe. The disease emerges at water temperatures below 16 °C and consists of one or more bright red skin lesions on the fish body. Mortality due to RMS is reportedly rare, but the disease leads to downgrading of the product and subsequent economic losses. Despite the disease impact, the causative agent for RMS is still formally undetermined although increasing evidence points to a bacterium ascribed to the Midichloriaceae family (order Rickettsiales), hereafter referred to as RMS-Midichloria like organism (RMS-MLO). Intriguingly, recently deposited sequences revealed the presence of RMS-MLO-like bacteria associated with Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, a common protozoan skin parasite of freshwater fish frequently harboring bacterial endosymbionts. Therefore, we hypothesized that I. multifiliis could be a vehicle for RMS-MLO. This was tested by infecting RMS-diseased rainbow trout with I. multifiliis theronts, and subsequently investigating the presence of RMS-MLO in tomonts detached from the fish. Real time PCR analyses showed clearly that I. multifiliis previously exposed to RMS-affected fish become positive to RMS-MLO suggesting that this bacterium can be at least transiently acquired and carried by the protozoan. Moreover, statistical analyses suggested a possible level of vertical transmission in I. multifiliis from one trophic stage to the next one. Further studies will be necessary to prove whether I. multifiliis has a role in the horizontal transfer of RMS-MLO bacteria from diseased RMS fish to healthy ones.
Original languageEnglish
Article number736230
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Ciliophora
  • Ichthyophthirius multifiliis
  • Rainbow trout
  • Red mark syndrome
  • Rickettsia-like organism (RLO)
  • Symbiosis

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