Over the years, whirling disease research topics have fallen into a wide range of categories and have involved researchers from many disciplines. Following are examples of research categories funded by the Whirling Disease Initiative:
Distribution and Dissemination — From year to year, not only do scientists monitor new geographic regions of infection, they also investigate vectors for transmission of the whirling disease parasite.
Parasite Research — This area of study focuses on the taxonomy, life cycle, and developmental phases of the whirling disease parasite, Myxobolus cerebralis. This basic knowledge helps solve the puzzle of how the parasite interacts with its fish and worm hosts, and the environment.
Oligochaete Research — It would be impossible to control whirling disease without understanding the circumstances under which the aquatic worm host of the parasite, Tubifex tubifex, effects onset of the disease. This area of research studies and identifies resistant strains of the T. tubifex, the habitat needs of the worm host, and ideal conditions for the worms’ production of the infective form of the parasite.
Salmonid Research — Interestingly, some salmonid species and strains are more susceptible than others to whirling disease. Their susceptibility or resistance is further influenced by fish age, fish size, water temperature, life history, parasite dose, and environmental factors. This area of study takes a close look at these factors, species by species.
Ecology — Because of the complex two-host life cycle of the whirling disease parasite, and the non-indigenous nature of the parasite and some hosts, understanding the host–parasite ecology gets clouded. This research area delves into these areas of uncertainty.
Diagnostic Methods — Quicker and more accurate field and laboratory diagnostics, and diagnostics that are not lethal to fish, are key areas of study. Research is finding new methods for detecting presence and severity of the parasite infection both inside and outside of its host.
Management and Control — Chemical treatments, UV exposures, heating and drying, and filtration are all methods studied for killing the parasite. Management strategies for controlling disease include improving stocking policies, education, regulation, and control of the worm host habitat. All of these areas require more evaluation for potential application.