A BIOLOGIST based at Teesside University is working with wildlife academics in the United States to explore a range of diseases sweeping through crayfish populations in North America.

Dr Jamie Bojko, a Biology Lecturer in the University’s School of Health & Life Sciences, says that understanding disease diversity and emergence in wildlife systems is vital to determine how emerging diseases arise and how they might evolve.

Together with colleagues at the University of Florida (UF) and Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), the research team have recently identified a new genetic lineage of parasite, known as a microsporidian, from crustacean hosts.

Jamie said: “This parasite infects the muscle of four crayfish species local to Florida and eats away their tissues, leaving a husk of parasitic spores.

“The parasite uses a straw-like tube to inject a gooey-centre into a crayfish muscle cell. This then develops into multiple clone parasites, which form spores to survive in the environment and move on to infect new hosts, completing the cycle.”

Dr Jamie Bojko is working with Dr Donald Behringer, Dr Lindsey Reisinger and PhD student Cheyenne Strattion, all from the University of Florida, along with Paul Moler, from the FWC.

The Research team recently published a paper in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology which highlights the findings of this brand new lineage of parasite, which is reducing the health of crayfish populations.

The group are now looking to examine what effect this disease has on crayfish and how any changes might result in alterations to the local ecology.