Anadromous fishes such as steelhead trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, are exposed to a suite of infectious agents and migratory challenges during their freshwater migrations. We assessed infectious agent load and richness and immune system gene expression in gill tissue of Bulkley River (British Columbia, CA) steelhead captured at and upstream of a migratory barrier to evaluate whether infectious burdens impacted migration success. We further considered the potential influences of water temperature, sex and fish size on host infectious agents and transcription profiles. There were eight infectious agents detected in steelhead gill tissue, with high prevalence of the bacteria Candidatus Branchiomonas cysticola (80%) and Flavobacterium psychrophilum (95%) and the microparasite Sphaerothecum destruens (53%). Fish sampled at the falls had significantly greater relative loads of Ca. B. cysticola and F. psychrophilum, higher infectious agent richness and differential gene expression compared to fish captured upstream. Flavobacterium psychrophilum was only associated with immune gene expression (particularly humoral immunity) of fish sampled at the falls, while water temperature was positively correlated with genes involved in the complement system, metabolic stress and oxidative stress for fish captured upstream. This work highlights interesting differences in agent-host interactions across fisheries and suggests that hydraulic barriers may reduce the passage of fish with the heaviest infectious agent burdens, emphasizing the selective role of areas of difficult passage. Further, this work expands our knowledge of infectious agent prevalence in wild salmonids and provides insight into the relationships between infectious agents and host physiology.

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Keywords Adult, disease, microbes, rainbow trout, salmon, spawning
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Journal Conservation Physiology
Twardek, W.M. (W. M.), Chapman, J.M. (J. M.), Miller, K.M. (K. M.), Beere, M.C. (M. C.), Li, S. (S), Kaukinen, K.H. (K. H.), … Cooke, S.J. (2019). Evidence of a hydraulically challenging reach serving as a barrier for the upstream migration of infection-burdened adult steelhead. Conservation Physiology, 7(1). doi:10.1093/conphys/coz023