A discussion on immunity

Discussion in 'Fish Disease Treatment and Diagnosis' started by Paul B, Aug 9, 2015.

  1. Paul B

    Paul B Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Reef Spotlight Award Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor

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    I have been thinking about this for seven or eight years and finally, through scientific research and my experimentation I think I have figured out something that may change the way we run aquariums. For many years I have been feeding live blackworms, live amphipods and live new born brine shrimp to my tank and I always assumed the excellent health of my fish was a result of that. My fish seem immune from just about everything including bacterial infections and parasites. Although live food seems to be the reason for their immunity, I think I found out the exact mechanism for the immunity. It's not so much that the food is live, but that the bacteria inside the guts of the food is also live. Many of our fish are quarantined for 72 days, then put in a sterile tank and fed things like freeze dried worms, pellets, flakes and frozen food. Almost all of that food is sterile although frozen food "may" have some living bacteria, albeit weak. Fish in the sea eat nothing but live food along with it's associated gut and skin bacteria. New reasearch indicates that a fishes immune system, while vastly different from ours still depends on the fish meeting an infectious agent to impart immunity to the animal. Our immune system is mainly concentrated in our bone marrow but fish have no bone marrow and instead produce antibodies in their kidney and spleen. The bacteria on the food the fish eat filters through the kidney which helps the immune system recognize a threat. The immune response of fish is to produce slime which completely covers the fish and the slime contains "activated macrophages"
    Following are just "partial" quotes of this informative article that I have found which makes good reading especially to the many aquarists that don't believe fish can become immune from disease and parasites. I quoted some parts of the article that I thought were more suited to this post but it is incomplete and can be read in full if you Google the link starting with (ISRN ImmunologyVolume 2012 Maria Angeles
    Ref: Copyright © 2012 María Ángeles Esteban. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
    (ISRN ImmunologyVolume 2012 (2012), Article ID 853470, 29 pageshttp://dx.doi.org/10.5402/2012/853470Review ArticleAn Overview of the Immunological Defenses in Fish SkinMaría Ángeles Esteban)
    Quote: Immunity associated with the parasites depends on the inhabiting discrete sites in the host. Especially important for this paper are the ectoparasites, those habiting in or on the skin. Until recently there had been little direct evidence of innate immune mechanisms against parasites associated with mucosal epithelium [285]. The active immunological role of skin against parasitic infection has been shown recently [286288], and now mucosal immunity against them start to be elucidated.
    Non-parasitic fishes usually die following infection, but animals surviving sublethal parasite exposure become resistant to subsequent challenge. This resistance correlates with the presence of humoral antibodies in the sera and cutaneous mucus of immune fishes.
    According to these authors "probiotic for aquaculture is a live, dead or component of a microbial cell that, when administered via the feed or to the rearing water, benefits the host by improving either disease resistance, health status, growth performance, feed utilisation, stress response or general vigour, which is achieved at least in part via improving the hosts or the environmental microbial balance."The first demonstration that probiotics can protect fishes against surface infections was against Aeromonas bestiarum and Ichthyophthirius multifiliis in rainbow trout [330]. The research on this topic is considered of high priority at present because enriched diets could be used as preventive or curative therapies for farmed fishes. End Quote
    Another interesting fact found in a recent issue of Scientific American By Ferris Jabr | September 12, 2012 |
    States that zebra fish whose guts were rich in bacteria absorbed more fats from their food as compared to fish in a germ free envirnment which in turn increased the number of energy-rich fat bubbles stored within the fish's intestinal cells for later use.
    I also discovered while researching is that fish fed a vaired diet actualy had less bacterial diversity in their gut than fish fed only one or two different types of food. I have always said that fish do not need a vaired diet, they need what they were designed to eat and nothing more. My fish are normally fed only three types of food. Live worms, frozen clams and frozen mysis. The smaller fish are only given live new born brine shrimp. I sometimes increase the diversity of their diet as an experiment but when that is over, they go back to their normal diet.
    Coincidently in this months "Popular Science" (August 2015) there is an article about this very topic. The author states that the most germ free envirnment today is on the International Space Station. Everything is sterilized including the air. All the surfaces are coated with bacteria limiting coatings, even the water is treated with iodine and biocidal nano silver so the only bacteria prsent are the ones coming from the astronauts themselves. They can't open a window or send out for Pizza so there is no fresh influx of microbes to balance the ecosystem. Sounds like quarantining doesn't it? He also states that a loss of gut bacteria correlates with many diseases and could impede longer space travel. If we lose our gut bacteria, our immune system goes dormant.
    In the real world bacteria, viruses and parasites evolved right along with other organisms that help keep each organism in check. They have their enemies and friends. When we mess with the system by using antibiotics or extended periods of quarantine, or remove living bacteria from their food, we are dooming the fish to a life where they are on the verge of getting a fatal disease.
    This is also the reason so many diseases are contracted in hospitals, a place where great pains are taken to keep the place clean. They are clean, so the only bacteria present are from sick people with no other bacteria or viruses to counteract them. It is now thought that people using those hand sanitizers from very young are at a higher risk of becomming an allergic toddler.
    Human babies born normally pick up Lactobacillus in the birth canal which helps them digest milk and lowers the gut's pH to the normal range. but babies born by C-section miss out and could be born with Staphlococcus and sometimes antibiotic resistant bacteria. (Rinku Patel Popular Science August 2015)
    So after researching all of this I have come to the conclusion that quarantining fish for an extended amount of time is actually very bad for our fishes health. In my opinion, if we want to quarantine I would do it using drugs such as copper in the theory that doing so will kill any parasites present in about 10 days while keeping the immunity the fish intact. Then I would feed at least some live food every day not just for the vitamins that come from live food, but for the bacteria. I am not sure how long a fishes immunity lasts but in the sea, it was immune, or almost immune for it's entire life. When a fish is collected, stored, starved and shipped it is in a very weakened state and their immune system is hardly functioning so even though the immune response to parasites, viruses and bacteria is there. It isn't strong enough to protect the fish, but if we can get it out of stress, fed live bacteria laden food and in a stable envirnment as soon as possable, it will recover and sustain some of their immunity.
    How many times do we read that a tank full of quarantined fish suddenly crashes and all the fish are lost to a parasite? It happens daily and all you have to do is go on any fish forum and search for it. Fish quarantined for extended amounts of time and fed sterile foods "have no immune system what so ever". I didn't make this up as you can read the articles I referenced or just Google "Fish Immunity" where you will find a plethora of new research which suggests that keeping fish sterile is the complete wrong thing to do. I rarely put references in my posts because I normally do my own research. But I realize I am not a fish doctor, researcher or marine biologist. What I am is an aquarist with immune fish. How do I know they are immune? I know because some of them have been in my tank for over 20 years, I add fish from many stores and even the sea. I can add fish with obvious parasites and in no case will anything else become infected. Many times during the year I add mud from the sea for the bacteria I always thought it was a good idea, now I know why. My fish get some live food every day and always have. I even think that the fish infected with parasites that I add strengthn the immune system so they never become infected. Of course we can't add parasite infected fish to a system that is not already immune and that is where the problem starts.
    . If this is not immunity I am an extreamly lucky individual and should go out and buy lottery tickets today.
     
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  2. Shep

    Shep Acan Connoisseur Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Photo of the Month Award

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    Some good article you linked but there are a few problems, first the point of quarantine is prevent the spread of disease from a sick subject to a population (tank in this case) so quarantine does not have to inviole meds. Second you list using copper but copper is a well known antibacterial treatment (https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0,21&as_vis=1&q=copper+antibacterial) , it's so effective that some hospitals has begun using copper in handrails on beds to help prevent secondary infections. The most important part in even if you have a fish that is 100% healthy and has all the right bacteria on it, they can still get sick. Fish diseases evolve just like human diseases to overcome, resist or bypass host immune defences, so while wiping out all of a fish's bacteria is without a doubt the wrong thing to do, I would still highly recommend quarantine. Also natural healthy bacteria may help prevent other disease they are not actually part of the immune system and the thing about hospitals in incorrect, there are many many reasons why secondary infections develop in hospitals simply saying it's because they try and keep it clean is a gross over simplification. Its a well known fact that fish have immune systems (all animals do) but I have to disagree that simply feeding foods with live bacteria on them is going to give your fish any kind of immunity. But this does bring up some good questions about our hobby's practices and the impact that they have on fish microbiomes.
     
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  3. saltyphish

    saltyphish Certified Sand Groomer R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad

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    I can see the merits in your post. It does make sense. Also like you said we place them in a sterile tank kind of like the bubble boy concept. After a while your immune system is less effective from infection since it is no longer used much like it would in the wild. Great post Paul. Thanks.
     
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  4. mcarroll

    mcarroll Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    @Paul B I knew the story would be like that - direct parallels with the human-oriented research I've been doing. GREAT article.

    After you eliminate the obvious differences between species, our immune systems are pretty much identical to fishes. Puss with active macrophages covering a human wound and the mucus covering internal skin, including the guts, are all the similarities to fish slime I need to consider. All that's missing is an ocean! ;)

    Just for the general interest and to put fish immune systems into perspective, from my favorite links thread, is this link and quote:
    Microbial Food Webs

    "Most of the biomass in the ocean is made up of viruses (Zimmer 2006)"

    "There are more than 5,000 different types of viruses in 100 ml of seawater, and more than 1,000,000 in a kilogram of sediment (Rowher 2009)."​

    All of these can be present on fish's slime - and be an enormous bio/pharmaceutical defense system.

    Is this technically true?

    I think one is better off thinking that they ARE part of the immune system. You cannot account for its function without accounting for them - trying would seem to be a mistake.
     
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  5. Shep

    Shep Acan Connoisseur Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Photo of the Month Award

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    Yes it is true, they help our immune system and play a role in disease susceptibility but are not truly part of the immune system. Also note that due to horizontal gene transfer normal bacteria can become pathogenic bacteria, which could/would cause disease.
     
  6. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    Good article, Paul. However, not everyone QTs in a sterile environment. I know some who QT their fish in a frag tank or just a smaller version of their DT. Their primary objective is not prophylactic disease treatment, but rather observation and strengthening the new addition before it joins the "general population" in the DT.

    I believe your methods have successfully built up your established fishes' natural immune systems to handle most diseases, probably over a period of years. But what about any new fish you add? How many blackworms does a fish need to eat before he/she is in "breeding condition"? ;)
     
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  7. mcarroll

    mcarroll Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    I think you may have just repeated yourself on the trueness of their role in the immune system. Are you saying this is true according to a technical definition? Can you explain why you think this?

    I am not a scientist, just a reader. To me, it's hard to imagine the use of considering some isolated model of an immune system without considering its residents.

    It's there for the residents
    and is undoubtedly a breeding ground - by design you might say. :)

    Consider:
    How Bacteria "Talk"
    Gut bacteria may influence thoughts and behaviour
     
  8. Shep

    Shep Acan Connoisseur Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Photo of the Month Award

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    Your immune system (also called your lymphatic system) is made up of a bunch of specialized organs and cells, these are what carry out your body's immune responses that keep you from getting murdered by all the bacteria, viruses and things of that nature. Bacteria are not actually part of the lymphatic system and while they do play a role in disease resistance/susceptibility they can not really be considered part of it. Its important to remember lots of things play a role in disease resistance/susceptibility (age,race, sex, weight or genetics just to name a few).
     
  9. mcarroll

    mcarroll Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    The flip side of that question is how many people have the space AND resources to QT at all?

    Of the ones who do QT, how many actually provide a stress-free health-oriented QT vs a treatment tank?

    Probably more than people who feed live black worms. ;)

    But my point is that a portion of black worms can live in a small dish for a few days in the fridge while they are being eaten. Not a difficult scenario for most people to manage by comparison to facilitating a non-harmful QT system. Getting the worms is the hardest part.

    Baby brine shrimp are much more available and only slightly more hassle, requiring space outside the fridge, but for large fish may be too small to be of use. There are other forgotten live foods too. Another post with a pic coming on that front.
     
  10. Paul B

    Paul B Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Reef Spotlight Award Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor

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    Wow, I am so glad this spurred some interest. I did an awful lot of research before I posted this as I realize I am not a researcher, just a guy who keeps fish. But I keep immune fish. I Have always wondered why my fish don't get sick. I can see no bacteria diseases but I didn't think they could become immune from parasites. But they are. Not just now or for a few years, but for over 30 years. The only thing I think I do differently than many people is feed live foods every day "and" I do not quarantine. I didn't have anything against quarantining, I just knew in my case anyway, I don't need it. But after studying this for a few years I slowly figured out what the process it.
    I feel that wild fish are immune, at least partly from everything just as we are. If we were not, most of us would be dead because we are constantly exposed to pathogens. I rode the New York City subway system for 40 years and I am sure, every disease in humankind is on these railings and I am sure no one ever cleaned them. But I rarely ever get sick. The fact that I was exposed to that all the time kept my immune system functioning perfectly. I went to Mexico a few times and I always got sick, very sick. So did my wife. But the Mexican people were not in the hospital with us. They are exposed to those parasites in the water every day so their immune system is geared up for that. I am not. I don't know how long fish keep their immune status once they are no longer exposed to pathogens but I feel quarantining for extended times is a detriment to it. Then I was thinking most of us feed only sterile food. This is IMO completely abnormal as wild fish eat bacteria with every meal. As I said, I think quarantining fish for such a long time would completely compromise their immune system and maybe even destroy it.
    I can, and do put parasite infected fish in my reef all the time. It just doesn't do anything and I don't remember any of those fish ever dying. I assume that in a few days the infected fish recovers it's immune system by the live food I feed every day. A couple of months ago I got 3 shrimpfish. They were all carrying parasites, but one was in bad shape and probably has stopped eating. He died in a day and was covered in parasites. I couldn't get him so I left him in there. I knew none of the other fish would contract any disease and they have not. I can only assume the other fish are immune as some of them are 24 years old.
    But I enjoy your opinions.
     
  11. mcarroll

    mcarroll Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    Understood - and I don't disagree. :) I think that's the common understanding of the components of our immune system. I just think that misses the meat of the conversation here.

    And I was serious on those two links! I don't think many people understand the full effect of our immune system - it's quite a bit deeper than just detecting or getting rid of a flu or cold. There is no real scenario where it's "just the internal components" of the immune system, if you will.

    To use an analogy, the immune system - Immune System, Inc. - has customers and suppliers like any business - it doesn't operate in a vacuum. Our gut would be one of the suppliers, our brain would be one of the customers. A customer can also be a supplier. Without healthy customers and suppliers - or worse, when one or more are damaged or otherwise acting in unexpected ways - Immune System, Inc. ships either no products or it ships terrible products. These scenarios might correspond to a lack of response where disease is allowed to take hold or to a response which could cause (e.g.) allergic reactions (immune responses that make no sense) like arthritis or food allergies. :)

    In fact, you could say that the confused actions of the customers and suppliers in my analogy are what we are attempting to figure out here! There's nothing wrong with the fish immune system, per se - it's acting how it should act in this situation. (The situation is the problem.)

    I'm terrible at analogies, so I hope this made at least a little sense!
     
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  12. Paul B

    Paul B Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Reef Spotlight Award Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor

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    I didn't post this as a "Do this" kind of thing, just a discussion of ideas. I realize many people quarantine and I don't have a problem with that. I have a problem with very long quarantining like 2 months which is often advised. I think besides the obvious stress on a fish for that long I would assume their immune system would suffer greatly with no input of pathogens. I don't know how long the immunity on wild fish lasts so I wouldn't want to do that. I am not sure how we can expose our fish to parasites after we quarantine them to strengthen their immunity or even if that is needed. We could probably use weak parasites (if there is such a thing) just like we are inoculated with weak viruses and bacterias to give us immunity. I know I get a flu shot every year and when I was young, we all had to have shots for Polio. My Grand Kids also have to get shots for measles and Chicken Pox. It seems to work on us, so why not on fish? How many times do we read that an entire tank died from parasites? All the time. I think we can prevent that by focusing more on the immune system and less on curing things. I don't even have any medications except copper for when I buy a fish covered in parasites that I get for practically free.
    I know copper kills bacteria on surfaces but I don't think it is potent enough in the solutions we normally use in a tank. If it were, we would use copper to treat bacteria infections, but we don't.
    I don't quarantine but I used to. I used copper in my quarantine systems for parasites because at the time, there were no reef tanks, just fish tanks and our fish were in terrible shape. I feel that using copper now, (if I were going to quarantine) would be for such a short time that the weak immunity the fish may have, will still be active after the quarantine period and after the fish is fed live foods every day (besides the live bacteria) the health benefits of the live foods will keep the fish healthy. Of course this is all opinion based on the fact that my fish seem to be immune,.

    Just a thought.
     
  13. Shep

    Shep Acan Connoisseur Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Photo of the Month Award

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    Haha you are absolutely correct about the complexities of the immune system, we are still figuring our all kind of awesome things about it. (you should look into cancer immunology, really interesting field) But one thing I forgot to mention in that our tanks are not the ocean, the foods we feed them are not straight from the ocean (most of the time) this is all going to dramatically change the bacteria that are found on and in our fish. Also you cited an article about the insane number of viruses that are found in the ocean, well I would be you a gem tang that our tanks have many times less than what is normally found in the ocean. So that is something to consider on this subject.
     
  14. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    I think most who stay in this hobby long-term end up QT'ing to some degree. Even those who employ ich management don't ever want to see velvet in their tank. A couple weeks of passive observation should be enough time for the really nasty diseases to show themselves.
     
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  15. mcarroll

    mcarroll Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    Some of the live foods that can be considered...many or most even for home propagation, from here:
    ImageUploadedByREEF2REEF1439160724.417191.jpg

    Algae
    Green water
    Infusoria
    Hydra and planarians
    Rotifers and Gastrotrichs
    Daphnia and other small crustaceans
    Bribe shrimp and larger crustaceans
    Micro worms and other relatives
    Tubifex, earthworms and relatives
    Snails and slugs
    Some aquatic insects
    Aquatic flies
    Terrestrial flies
    Other insects
    Fish and tadpoles

    That's pretty much the Table of Contents.

    Even terrestrial or fresh water live food is going to be better than dead/sterile food...which is part of Paul's point on the use of black worms.
     
  16. mcarroll

    mcarroll Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    A good quote from the book:
    "One soon learns, for example, that an inadequate diet is often the first prerequisite for many diseases common to aquarium fishes."

    That was 1975...look how far we've come.
     
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  17. Paul B

    Paul B Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Reef Spotlight Award Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor

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    I feed clams out of the ocean every day along with live worms (yes I know, freshwater worms) and live baby brine shrimp. I am not sure how much live bacteria is on the clams I feed but I buy those ocean clams live. Or I collect them. I also collect in the ocean live amphipods all the time and dump thousands of them into my tank along with mud that I collect just for the bacteria. I never knew if the mud did anything but so far, it hasn't hurt so I will continue doing that. My fish also never get bacterial infections. I can't remember the last time I ever had anything sick except a few times Pop Eye. I feel adding bacteria to the water and food is a good thing. Just my opinion of course.
     
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  18. Paul B

    Paul B Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Reef Spotlight Award Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor

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    I think that in regard to fish health, we are still in 1975. I had my tank then, I still have my books from then and many of us still use the same techniques as we did then. Thank God Humans advanced and learned how to use our immune system to our advantage. We are now learning not to use antibiotics to often and to just let our infections heal in time as we were built to do.
     
  19. mcarroll

    mcarroll Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    Can't disagree that we're a bit stuck in the past.

    Getting off topic with this, but I read somewhere that when antibiotics were first introduced they were given with a dose of antifungal medication (nystatin?) to counter (or rather, match) the antibacterial effect....to avoid giving the funguses a leg up, which does happen.

    The antifungal wasn't being prescribed though, it was part of the antibiotic pill from the manufacturer, so the FDA understandably forced them to stop integrating the two....but nobody in-turn asked the doctors to start prescribing it and now nobody takes any special precautions at all during/after taking antibiotics.

    I had to ask my doctor about probiotics last time I was prescribed antibiotics or he wouldn't have said a thing - and he did recommend something for me to take.
     
  20. Paul B

    Paul B Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Reef Spotlight Award Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor

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    I take probiotics but I think in relation to fish, although they are probably a great benefit, I would assume living multiple types of bacteria would be even better. Some good and some not so good
     
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