Pathogenicity of the gill artery worm Philometra obturans (Nematoda) in northern pike (Esox lucius) in Southwest Finland.
The pathogenicity of female P. obturans was investigated. Fish samples were taken between May and June 2001 from Lake Littoistenjärvi, in southwest Finland. The intensity of infection varied between one and 4 worms, these being found in the afferent artery of the 2 outermost gill arches. The prevalence was 33.9% (n=59). Host condition and tissue reactions were investigated through dissection and analysis of histopathology. The parasites obstructed the gill arteries, and the arterial wall was stretched around intact worms. Hypertrophy of the arterial wall was observed, especially when only disintegrating remains of the parasites were present. Infected pike were in a poorer condition after catch, transportation, and holding in aquaria and thus less tolerant to stress than uninfected pike. This was correlated with the number of infected gill arteries (P<0.05). The results show that infection with this nematode has a detrimental effect on the host when combined with environmental or physiological stress, and may result in host mortality.