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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Severe thiamine deficiency in eastern Baltic cod (Gadus morhua)

Engelhardt, Josefin; Frisell, Oscar; Gustavsson, Hanna; Hansson, Tomas; Sjoberg, Rajlie; Collier, Tracy K.; Balk, Lennart


The eastern Baltic cod (Gadus morhua) population has been decreasing in the Baltic Sea for at least 30 years. Condition indices of the Baltic cod have decreased, and previous studies have suggested that this might be due to overfishing, predation, lower dissolved oxygen or changes in salinity. However, numerous studies from the Baltic Sea have demonstrated an ongoing thiamine deficiency in several animal classes, both invertebrates and vertebrates. The thiamine status of the eastern Baltic cod was investigated to determine if thiamine deficiency might be a factor in ongoing population declines. Thiamine concentrations were determined by chemical analyses of thiamine, thiamine monophosphate and thiamine diphosphate (combined SumT) in the liver using high performance liquid chromatography. Biochemical analyses measured the activity of the thiamine diphosphate-dependent enzyme transketolase to determine the proportion of apoenzymes in both liver and brain tissue. These biochemical analyses showed that 77% of the cod were thiamine deficient in the liver, of which 13% had a severe thiamine deficiency (i.e. 25% transketolase enzymes lacked thiamine diphosphate). The brain tissue of 77% of the cod showed thiamine deficiency, of which 64% showed severe thiamine deficiency. The thiamine deficiency biomarkers were investigated to find correlations to different biological parameters, such as length, weight, otolith weight, age (annuli counting) and different organ weights. The results suggested that thiamine deficiency increased with age. The SumT concentration ranged between 2.4-24 nmol/g in the liver, where the specimens with heavier otoliths had lower values of SumT (P = 0.0031). Of the cod sampled, only 2% of the specimens had a Fulton's condition factor indicating a healthy specimen, and 49% had a condition factor below 0.8, indicating poor health status. These results, showing a severe thiamine deficiency in eastern Baltic cod from the only known area where spawning presently occurs for this species, are of grave concern.


eastern Baltic cod (Gadus morhua); thiamine deficiency; Baltic Sea

Published in

2020, volume: 15, number: 1, article number: e0227201

Authors' information

Engelhardt, Josefin
Stockholm Univ
Frisell, Oscar
Stockholm Univ
Gustavsson, Hanna
Stockholm Univ
Hansson, Tomas
Stockholm Univ
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Collier, Tracy K.
Western Washington Univ
Balk, Lennart
Stockholm Univ

UKÄ Subject classification

Fish and Aquacultural Science

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