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Lack of association between Flavobacterium columnare genomovar and virulence in hybrid tilapia Oreochromis niloticus (L.) × Oreochromis aureus (Steindachner)

C A Shoemaker, B R LaFrentz
Journal of fish diseases 2015 v.38 no.5 pp. 491-498
Flavobacterium columnare, Oreochromis aureus, Oreochromis niloticus, columnaris disease, fish, hybrids, models, mortality, pathogenesis, virulence
Columnaris disease can be problematic in tilapia (Oreochromis spp.) production. An understanding of the pathogenesis and virulence of Flavobacterium columnare is needed to develop prevention strategies. The objective of this study was to determine the virulence of genetically defined isolates of F. columnare in sex‐reversed hybrid tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus (L.) × O. aureus (Steindachner). A series of immersion challenge trials were performed using isolates of the five established genomovars of F. columnare: I, II, II‐B, III and I/II. The mean per cent mortality of fish challenged with genomovar I, II and III isolates ranged from 0 to 100, 3.3–78 and 3.3–75%, respectively. The mean per cent mortality of fish challenged with genomovar II‐B ranged from 35 to 96.7%, and the only genomovar I/II isolate tested caused no mortality. Contrary to previous work in other fish species, there did not appear to be an association between F. columnare genomovar and virulence in tilapia. The challenge model used resulted in acute mortality. An alternative challenge model was tested by cohabitating healthy fish with dead fish infected with F. columnare. This method resulted in rapid appearance of clinical signs and mortality, suggesting the potential for F. columnare to increase in virulence upon growth on/in a fish host.