Crayfish plague (Aphanomyces astaci) is a highly infectious disease of all crayfish of non North American origin. The causal agent is an Oomycete (water mould or downy mildew). Crayfish plague is now widespread in Europe as well as in North America.
- According to The Fish Site;
- The European crayfish species, the Noble crayfish Astacus astacus of north-west Europe, the stone crayfish Austropotamobius pallipes of south-west and west Europe, the related Austropotamobius torrentium (mountain streams of south-west Europe) and the slender clawed or Turkish crayfish Astacus leptodactylus of eastern Europe and Asia Minor are all highly susceptible.
- The reservoir for the original infections in the 19th century was never established, but the post-1960s extensions are largely linked to movements of North American crayfish introduced more recently for purposes of crayfish farming.
- Transmission has also resulted from contaminated crayfish traps and other contaminated equipment along with the movement of fish stocks from one body of water to another or contaminated fishing gear or boots.
- Infected crayfish may present a wide range of gross signs of infection or none at all. Focal whitening of local areas of musculature beneath transparent areas of thin cuticle, especially of the ventral abdomen and in the periopod (limb) joints, often accompanied by even more localised brown melanisation, is the most consistent sign.
- In the terminal stages of infection, animals show a limited range of behavioural signs, principally a loss of the normal aversion to bright light (they are seen in open water in daylight) later accompanied by a loss of limb co-ordination, which produces an effect that has been described as walking on stilts.
- Eventually, animals lose their balance and fall onto their backs before dying.
- accidentally on contaminated equipment (e.g. wet fishing gear, canoes/kayaks, boats etc used recently in affected waters in the UK or elsewhere)
- or else non-native species have been illegally introduced to the area and have now passed the disease to the native White-clawed crayfish