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Isolation and Characterization of Bacteriophages Infecting the Fish Pathogen Flavobacterium psychrophilum

Stenholm, Anne Rønnest, Dalsgaard, Inger, Middelboe, Mathias
Applied and environmental microbiology 2008 v.74 no.13 pp. 4070-4078
Flavobacterium psychrophilum, Oncorhynchus mykiss, aquaculture, bacteriophages, fish farms, host range, host strains, pathogenicity, pathogens, trout
Flavobacterium psychrophilum is a serious pathogen in trout aquaculture, responsible for the diseases rainbow trout fry syndrome (RTFS) and cold water disease (CWD). Bacteriophage control of F. psychrophilum may constitute a realistic approach in the treatment of these diseases; however, a detailed understanding of the phage-host interactions is needed to evaluate the potential of F. psychrophilum bacteriophages for that purpose. Twenty-two F. psychrophilum phages from Danish rainbow trout farms were isolated and characterized. The phage genome sizes differed considerably and fell into three major size classes (8.5 to 12 kb, 48 kb, and 90 kb). The phage host ranges comprised from 5 to 23 of the 28 tested F. psychrophilum strains, and 18 of the phage isolates showed unique host ranges. Each bacterial strain had a unique pattern of susceptibility to the 22 phages, and individual strains also showed large variations (up to 10⁷-fold differences) in susceptibility to specific phages. Phage burst size (7 to 162 phages infected cell⁻¹) and latency period (4 to 6 h) also showed pronounced differences both between phages and, for a specific phage, between host strains. In general, the characterization documented the presence of diverse F. psychrophilum phage communities in Danish trout farms, with highly variable patterns of infectivity. The discovery and characterization of broad-host-range phages with strong lytic potential against numerous pathogenic F. psychrophilum host strains thus provided the foundation for future exploration of the potential of phages in the treatment of RTFS and CWD.