Relationships of the host, pathogen, and environment: Implications for diseases of cultured and wild fish populations

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109 Scopus citations


Many effects of diseases on cultured fish are known; they are less clear in wild fish populations. Cultured fish represent captive populations that can be subjected to intense scrutiny with an increasing range of diverse and powerful tools. Disease represents a spectrum from acute mortality to rather benign or inconsequential syndromes, all sharing the common feature of a deviation from the normal structure or function of the host. Understanding these deviations among cultured and wild fish populations and balancing their implications against ecological, economic, and political concerns are challenges for both fish health scientists and fisheries managers. The severity of a given disease is dependent on the interaction of numerous variables of the host, the parasite, and the environment. To understand diseases and their impacts on fish populations, we must know which variables are important, how we measure them, and finally how we assess the results of our measurements. We have perhaps been most successful with variables associated with the pathogen. We often can more easily isolate and scrutinize the pathogen than either the host or the environment. The host variables of importance (for which we lack considerable knowledge) include actions of the immune system in general and specifically the influence of genetics and nutrition on host resistance–susceptibility to disease. Lastly, the contribution of the environment, a nebulous term encompassing everything other than the host and pathogen, is only partly appreciated. While we can measure certain physical and chemical parameters of the environment, we have a poor understanding of the biological–ecological variables that influence host–pathogen interactions. Ultimately, diseases of wild fish must be considered in the context of these complex interactions including numerous physical, chemical, biological, and ecological parameters, which may yet be discovered as integral parts of the aquatic habitat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-111
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Aquatic Animal Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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