To what extent are hake fat and its oil quality affected by the parasite Lernaeocera lusci?
Keywords:Fatty acid, Lernaeocera lusci, Merluccius merluccius, Nutritional quality index, Parasite load
The copepod Lernaeosera lusci is a common ectoparasite of the hake Merluccius merluccius, which constitutes its definitive host. The present study is the first to investigate the impact of L. lusci and its infection intensity on the fatty acid (FA) composition and oil quality of its host. The results revealed a substantial decrease in the total FA content, which dropped by 50, 70 and 83% when fish was infected by one (L1), two (L2) and three (L3) parasites, respectively. The lipid profile showed a tendency for a significant decrease in the saturated fatty acid (SFA), monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels in all parasitized groups and in a parasite load dependant manner (p < 0.05). The same tendency was observed for the most commonly analysed FA and in particular for essential FA, such as e arachidonic (ARA), eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids, which showed smaller amounts associated with L. lusci co-infection. From a nutritional standpoint, our findings revealed that L. lusci is able to cause severe deterioration in the nutritional quality of its host oil. In addition to the increase in the thrombogenicity index (IT) and the high atherogenicity index (IA) values, the low hypocholesterolemic / hypercholesterolemic fatty acid ratio (H/H) and the modest amount of DHA+EPA (20 and 10 mg/100g) recorded at heavy infection levels make the parasitized fish inadequate sources of these PUFA and unsuitable for consumers with special dietary needs.
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