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Topic-icon Shrimp Disease in Indian River Lagoon

  • Richard Martin
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9 years 2 weeks ago #443 by Richard Martin
Richard Martin created the topic: Shrimp Disease in Indian River Lagoon
This article was originally published on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Page located here: ... p?id=25055 ... p?id=25055

Shrimp Disease
Concerned citizens report diseased pink shrimp from the northern Indian River Lagoon.

Since early February 2005, we have had a number of reports from concerned citizens in the northern Indian River Lagoon (IRL) regarding diseased pink shrimp that have been found in the Titusville and Melbourne area and in the Mosquito Lagoon. Shrimp have been reported to have a purplish-mauve coloration on the cuticle and to have large white “tumors” or “cysts” in the muscle. Observations from the public have suggested that there is a marked increase in the prevalence of the disease compared to previous years (1-5%), with anywhere from a 5 to a 20% prevalence this year. This has not been investigated or confirmed by independent sampling. That we have received notification about the disease from several different sources and from people very familiar with shrimping in this area suggests that something unusual might be happening.

Through the assistance of the public, we have been sent multiple specimens of diseased pink shrimp (Farfantepenaeus duorarum) from the IRL to examine.

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Based on our analysis of this sample, we have determined that the shrimp have a disease known as “cotton” or “milk” shrimp caused by a parasite infection of primarily the abdominal muscle. The muscle has a “cottony” appearance, which is externally visible as white opaque patchy areas under the carapace.

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The disease is caused by a severe infection of parasitic microsporidia. Although there are several species of microsporidia known to infect shrimp, we have tentatively diagnosed this species as Agmasoma (= Thelohania) duorara based on spore morphology and host species. The white mass is not a cancerous tumor or cyst but is caused by hundreds of microscopic parasites. The presence of the parasite can elicit a host response by the shrimp that leads to a buildup of blue-black pigmentation in the cuticle. Pigmented cells (melanophores) normally present in the shrimp’s cuticle respond to the parasite’s presence by expanding and causing an increased darkened discoloration of the carapace.

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The parasite principally infects and replaces the muscle of the shrimp but can be found in other organs.

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The white mass in the muscle of the shrimp

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is composed of thousands of microscopic parasite stages

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known as sporonts, each containing eight spores.

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This parasite species is commonly found in pink shrimp. We are more familiar with microsporidian infections in fish, but microsporidia can infect animals in a wide range of phyla, including insects.

The life cycle of this parasite is indirect and thought to involve another host, possibly fish. When a pink shrimp feeds on spores from another source, the internal filament (like a cnidocyst) in the spore releases and allows a sporoplasm (like a tiny amoeba) inside the spore to exit. The sporoplasm is thought to invade the host blood cells (hemocytes) in connective tissue surrounding the intestine. The microsporidian divides in the hemocytes until they reach the skeletal muscle tissue, where they divide further and form more spores. There are usually eight spores per sporont. The infections result in massive invasion of the muscle tissue resulting in some destruction (lysis and necrosis) and replacement of the tissue by the parasite.

Infected shrimp can become weakened or paralyzed, and behavioral changes are likely to ensue. This in turn may increase the shrimp’s risk of predation and susceptibility to handling and other diseases; the infection may also result in reduced fecundity. It is important to remind shrimpers that it is not a safe practice to toss dead shrimp back in the water, because this can just perpetuate the parasite’s life cycle. Diseased shrimp should be buried or otherwise disposed of away from the water.

We do not know what the extent of this disease is in the IRL shrimp population nor why it seems to be increasing, but we intend to do assessments of shrimp health in the IRL to try to understand both aspects of the disease. Agmasoma duorara has previously been described in pink shrimp in Florida (Iversen and Manning, 1959). The parasite is also a known pathogen in aquaculture, where several shrimp species can be affected and the product is unmarketable. Agmasoma duorara is not a risk to human consumers. However, if the shrimp appear to be obviously weakened or debilitated by the infection, then it may be advisable to refrain from eating such specimens.

Report prepared by:

Jan Landsberg Ph.D. and Yasu Kiryu Ph.D.
Fish and Wildlife Health
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
100 Eighth Avenue SE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701-5095
Tel # 727-896-8626
Fax# 727-823-0166

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9 years 2 weeks ago #446 by q305954
q305954 replied the topic: Shrimp Disease in Indian River Lagoon
Interesting article - thank you. I have observed this shrimp characteristic in shrimp in south Pinellas County in the past - although maybe one or two caught per night (1 in 300 - 500 caught).

I'll nose around from inside the FDA and see what I find out. From what the article states, it may be an issue of concern in aquacultured/domestic shrimp.

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8 years 11 months ago #543 by q305954
q305954 replied the topic: Shrimp Disease in Indian River Lagoon
For those interested, here's what I found out...

Over a thousand species of microsporidia (closely related to fungi) infect various land and sea animals. Shrimp infection is common (cotton or milk shrimp). Some species occasionally infect HIV-infected patients, but Agmasoma spp. has not been implicated.

"Cotton shrimp" could be considered adulterated, but the FDA does not monitor diseased shrimp. (I don't know whether Fish & WIldlife or the State Department of Fisheries (or similar) do either.) The problem is largely self-regulated by industry because infected shrimp are quite visible, have mushy texture, and are not marketable. THose are certainly discarded in the harvesting and processing processes in the commercial industry.

Bottom line - I would discard any that I catch, keeping my "eye" on the frequency of incidence in shrimp across time. Let someone know if you see a marked increase in occurrence.

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8 years 11 months ago #544 by Richard Martin
Richard Martin replied the topic: Shrimp Disease in Indian River Lagoon
For those who aren't aware, "Wiz" is the Regional Laboratory Director of the Food and Drug Administration for the Pacific Region of the United States.

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8 years 11 months ago #567 by q305954
q305954 replied the topic: Shrimp Disease in Indian River Lagoon
And I sorely miss being able to get out on the water in some old shorts , t-shirt and dive boots, drag around a bucket and a cooler (full-o-breswski) on a styrofoam float, shrimp in peace and quiet, return to shore at the end of the tide and clean shrimp while sharing great conversations with good friends and cooking up a batch of fresh-caught shrimp to eat or to share/trade with shore fishermen! I could go on, and on, and on.... words just don't do the experience justice, do they? But, we're planning on getting there for at least a week next year and looking forward to it! Enjoy the season this year - I'm sure that it's beginning to heat up!

(Richard is kicking ass with this website, huh!?! That's my boy!!!)

Bill Martin
Santa Ana, California

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