Outbreaks of a chronic branchitis in channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque) were observed on four fish farms throughout the state of California from November 1982 to April 1984. Severe granulomatous inflammation of the gill filaments with necrosis of the cartilage of the gill ray and diffuse epithelial hyperplasia, resulting in extensive fusion of gill lamellae, was present on histologic examination of gill specimens from 35 out of 44 fish examined. Numerous, small trophozoites morphologically consistent with presporogonic myxosporean parasites were consistently associated with the inflammatory process. Mature spores of Henneguya exilis Kudo were present in large numbers in gill specimens from two fish and only occasionally in 22 others. Similar cases referred to as “Hamburger Gill Disease” or “proliferative gill disease” have been known to occur in the south-central United States. This report describes the morphologic changes of this condition and discusses its possible pathogenesis.
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