Ceratomyxa shasta is a virulent myxosporean parasite of salmon and trout in the Pacific Northwest of North America. The parasite is endemic in the Klamath River, Oregon/California, where a series of dams prevent movement of fish hosts between the upper and lower parts of the basin. Ceratomyxa shasta exhibits a range of infection patterns in different fish species above and below the dams. We hypothesised that the variations in infection and disease are indicators that different strains of the parasite exist, each with distinct host associations. Accordingly, we sought to identify strain-specific genetic markers in the ssrRNA and internal transcribed spacer region 1 (ITS-1). We examined 46 C. shasta isolates from water samples and two fish hosts, from June 2007 field exposures at upper and lower Klamath River sites with similarly high parasite densities. We found 100% of non-native rainbow trout became infected and died at both locations. In contrast, mortality in native Chinook salmon was <10% in the upper basin, compared with up to 40% in the lower basin. Parasite ssrRNA sequences were identical from all fish. However, ITS-1 sequences contained multiple polymorphic loci and a trinucleotide repeat (ATC)(0-3) from which we defined four genotypes: 0, I, II and III. Non-native rainbow trout at both sites were infected with genotype II and with a low level of genotype III. Chinook salmon in the upper basin had genotypes II and III, whereas in the lower basin genotype I predominated. Genotype I was not detected in water from the upper basin, a finding consistent with the lack of anadromous Chinook salmon there. Genotype O was only detected in water from the upper basin. Resolution of C. shasta into sympatric, host-specific genotypes has implications for taxonomy, monitoring and management of this significant parasite.
2009 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.