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Journal of the South African Veterinary Association

versão On-line ISSN 2224-9435
versão impressa ISSN 1019-9128

J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. vol.79 no.4 Pretoria  2008




Provisional clinical chemistry parameters in the African Sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus)



J G MyburghI; C J BothaI; D G BooyseII; F ReyersIII

IDepartment of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa
IIDepartment of Anatomy and Physiology, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa
IIIDigital Veterinary Diagnostics, PO Box 41468, Garsfontein East, 0060 South Africa




Pollution affects aquatic systems worldwide and there is an urgent need for efficient monitoring. Fish are generally sensitive to their environment and are thus considered to be valuable bioindicator species. The African Sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus)is particularly important in this respect because of its very wide distribution. In order to use C. gariepinus as a bioindicator species its baseline clinical chemistry must be defined. Existing data are scarce, and the objective of this work was therefore to establish clinical chemistry parameters for C. gariepinus. Blood was collected from male and female catfish and a number of clinical chemistry parameters were determined. Plasma protein values, but particularly those of plasma albumin, were found to be very low, approximately half the value for dogs, but similar to the values in Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). Plasma urea values in Sharptooth catfish were found to be much lower than in dogs, but only marginally lower than in Channel catfish. Plasma creatinine in Sharptooth catfish, however, was only a quarter of that of dogs and one third of that found in Channel catfish. These findings may have implications for using urea and/or creatinine as an index of renal glomerular filtration, as is done in mammals. Plasma enzyme activity ranges were much lower in Sharptooth catfish than in dogs, particularly for alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and alanine amino-transferase (ALT). By comparison, Channel catfish have an even lower ALT activity range but an ALP range that is very similar to dogs. The implications for using these enzymes as markers for liver disease are not clear from these data, as factors such as plasma half-life and tissue distribution remain tobe determined. The very lowplasma thyroxine (T4) levels have important implications for laboratory personnel, who will have to set up calibration and standardisation adaptations for the methods that are generally designed for human samples. Although the sample size was too small for reliable comparisons, it appeared that there was little difference in the parameters measured between male and female fish. The values obtained are a useful startingpoint for using C. gariepinus as abioindicator species.

Key words: bioindicator, Clarias gariepinus, clinical chemistry, plasma enzymes, proteins, renal function, Sharptooth catfish, thyroxine, T4



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Received: March 2007
Accepted: November 2008



* Author for correspondence. E-mail:

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