Digital droplet PCR-based environmental DNA tool for monitoring Cryptocaryon irritans in a marine fish farm from Hong Kong

Hin Hung Tsang, Jose A. Domingos, Jacob A.F. Westaway, Maximilian H.Y. Kam, Roger Huerlimann, Giana Bastos Gomes

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The adoption of new investigative strategies based on environmental DNA (eDNA) can be used to monitor parasites, associated bacterial microbiomes, and physical-chemical parameters in fish farms. In this study, we used the economically important and globally distributed fish ciliate parasite Cryptocaryon irritans as a model to understand the parasite abundance and potential drivers of its presence in marine fish farms. Environmental (rainfall) and physical-chemical (temperature, oxygen, salinity, pH) data collected from a marine fish farm in Hong Kong were analyzed together with the eDNA approach targeting C. irritans abundance based on digital droplet PCR and 16S metagenomics to determine associations and triggers between parasites and specific bacterial groups. Rainfall and temperature demonstrated positive associations with high abundance of C. irritans (eDNA) at the studied marine fish cage farm. However, rainfall was the only parameter tested that demonstrated a significant association with parasite eDNA, indicating that the raining season is a risky period for fish farmers in Hong Kong. Coraliomargarita was the bacterial genus with the most significant relationship with low abundance of C. irritans in water. Understanding the environmental triggers of ciliate parasites propagation and associated bacterial microbiome could elucidate new insights into environmental control, microbial management, and promote the reduction of chemical use in marine fish farms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number350
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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