Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Stress and Recovery

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 75-86

First online:

The use of histopathological indicators to evaluate contaminant-related stress in fish

  • Julia SchwaigerAffiliated withLaboratory for Fish Pathology
  • , Rüdiger WankeAffiliated withInstitute of Veterinary Pathology, University of Munich
  • , Stefan AdamAffiliated withDept. Physiological Ecology, Zoological Institute, University of Tübingen
  • , Michael PawertAffiliated withDept. Physiological Ecology, Zoological Institute, University of Tübingen
  • , Wolfgang HonnenAffiliated withApplied and Environmental Chemistry, Steinbeis-Transfer-Centre Reutlingen
  • , Rita TriebskornAffiliated withDept. Physiological Ecology, Zoological Institute, University of Tübingen

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As a component of a large research program toevaluate the effects of contaminants on fish healthin the field, histopathological studies have beenconducted to help establish causal relationshipsbetween contaminant exposure and various biologicalresponses. Brown trout (Salmo trutta f. fario)and loach (Barbatula barbatula) were exposedto water diverted from polluted streams undersemi-field conditions at various times during theyear. The histopathological studies revealedseasonal differences in the types and severity oforgan lesions between fish of the two streams. Bothtoxicant-induced alterations and organ lesionsresulting from natural stressors (physicochemicaland limnological water parameters) and secondarystress effects of pollution (diseases) could bedetected. In evaluating the general health ofexperimental and control fish, the use ofhistopathological studies are recommended for makingmore reliable assessments of biochemical responsesin fish exposed to a variety of environmentalstressors. Stereological analysis providesquantitative data on pathological lesions whichhelps to establish correlation with other biomarkersthereby increasing the probability of identifyingcause (stressor) and effect (biomarker) relationships.

biomarker environmental pollution fish disease histopathology morphometry