Study eyes chemical effects on salmon immue system

Beginning in January, Frank Loge, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at WSU, will be working with the National Marine Fisheries Service to better understand the ecology of infectious disease within salmon. Loge is looking at how industrial chemicals, such as dioxins, PCBs and solvents in the environment, suppress the immune system in salmon and subsequently influence disease transmission in in-stream salmon populations.

Dioxins are byproducts of a number of manufacturing processes, including smelting, paper pulp bleaching and solid waste incinerating. PCBs were used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment until they were banned in the 1970s.

A substantial body of data shows that:

• when these chemicals are present within their tissues, fish suffer from suppressed immune systems
• these chemicals do not degrade in the environment
• these chemicals are bound up in sediments in marine environments.

How these chemicals cause disease, however, is not clearly understood. While the researchers are starting with chemicals with well-known effects, they eventually hope to look at the effects of municipal chemicals, such as pharmaceuticals, on fish disease.

Loge’s research expertise is in understanding the health implications of the transport, treatment and disposal of chemical and biological constituents generated in municipal, agricultural and industrial applications. Loge will be working with a number of agencies, including the Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.

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