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Transmission to eels, portals of entry, and putative reservoirs of Vibrio vulnificus serovar E (biotype 2)

Marco-Noales, E., Milan, M., Fouz, B., Sanjuan, E., Amaro, C.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2001 v.67 no.10 pp. 4717-4725
Vibrio vulnificus, biofilm, bacteria, serotypes, disease transmission, foodborne illness, waterborne diseases, gills, infection
Vibrio vulnificus serovar E (formerly biotype 2) is the etiologic agent that is responsible for the main infectious disease affecting farmed eels. Although the pathogen can theoretically use water as a vehicle for disease transmission, it has not been isolated from tank water during epizootics to date. In this work, the mode of transmission of the disease to healthy eels, the portals of entry of the pathogen into fish, and their putative reservoirs have been investigated by means of laboratory and field experiments. Results of the experiments of direct and indirect host-to-host transmission, patch contact challenges, and oral-anal intubations suggest that water is the prime vehicle for disease transmission and that gills are the main portals of entry into the eel body. The pathogen mixed with food can also come into the fish through the gastrointestinal tract and develop the disease. These conclusions were supported by field data obtained during a natural outbreak in which we were able to isolate this microorganism from tank water for the first time. The examination of some survivors from experimental infections by indirect immunofluorescence and scanning electron microscopy showed that V. vulnificus serovar E formed a biofilm-like structure on the eel skin surface. In vitro assays demonstrated that the ability of the pathogen to colonize both hydrophilic and hydrophobic surfaces was inhibited by glucose. The capacity to form biofilms on eel surface could constitute a strategy for surviving between epizootics or outbreaks, and coated survivors could act as reservoirs for the disease.