The recreational bait trade is a potential pathway for pathogen introduction and spread when anglers dump bait shop sourced water into aquatic systems. Despite this possibility, and previous recognition of the importance of the bait trade in the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), to date there has been no region wide survey documenting pathogens in retail bait shops. In this study, we analyzed 96 environmental DNA samples from retail bait shops around the Great Lakes region to identify pathogens, targeting the V4 hypervariable region of the 16S rRNA gene. Additionally, we used samples from one site in Lake Michigan as a comparison to pathogen diversity and abundance in natural aquatic systems. Our results identified nine different groups of pathogens in the bait shop samples, including those that pose risks to both humans and fish species. Compared to wild sourced samples, the bait shops had higher relative abundance and greater taxonomic diversity. These findings suggest that the bait trade represents a potentially important pathway that could introduce and spread pathogens throughout the Great Lakes region. Improving pathogen screening and angler outreach should be used in combination to aid in preventing the future spread of high risk pathogens.
- Environmental DNA