Ciliate ectoparasites are one of the most important groups of pathogens in fish culture, and the traditional treatments are sometimes harmful to the fish and the environment. Thus, the search for novel compounds that are effective at low concentrations and safe for fish are necessary to optimise treatments in aquaculture. The antiprotozoal capacity of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) against the ciliate Tetrahymena has been documented; however, their toxicity may vary with the synthesis methodology and nanoparticle size. The objectives of this study were a) to evaluate the acute toxicity in vitro of two AgNPs (Argovit™ and UTSA) on Tetrahymena sp., a biological model for ciliated ectoparasites of fish and b) to test the safety of lethal and higher doses of UTSA AgNPs for ciliates on the fish C. estor. Light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were used to determine whether AgNPs affected the structure of the cell surface of Tetrahymena. The mortality, histopathological alterations and metagenomics of the fish were used to determine the major effects of UTSA AgNPs. In Tetrahymena, the median lethal concentration (LC50) for Argovit™ was 2501 ± 1717 ng/L at 15 min and 796 ± 510 ng/L at 60 min, while the LC50 for UTSA AgNPs was 4 ± 2 and 1 ± 0.6 ng/L at 15 min and 60 min, respectively. A concentration of 3300 ng/L Argovit™ and 10.6 ng/L UTSA AgNPs for 15 and 60 min, respectively, was 100% effective against Tetrahymena. After 60 min of exposure to 0.25 and 0.50 ng/L UTSA AgNPs, the number of cilia significantly reduced, there were small holes on the cell surface, and the cellular membrane was ruptured. In fish exposed to lethal (10.6 ng/L) and higher (31.8 and 95.4 ng/L) doses of UTSA, the AgNPs did not affect fish survival after 96 h, and there were no signs of histopathological damage or gut microbial changes. This study is the first report on microscopic and ultrastructural changes in Tetrahymena after exposure to significantly low concentrations of UTSA AgNPs with antiprotozoal efficacy without evidence of harmful effects on fish. These results provide the basis for further studies of both pet aquarium and commercial fish that may validate these findings at a larger experimental scale, taking into account AgNPs bioaccumulation, safety for human consumption and environmental impact.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases