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Growth and survival of the fish pathogenic bacterium, Flavobacterium columnare, in tilapia mucus and porcine gastric mucin

Craig A. Shoemaker, Benjamin R. LaFrentz
FEMS microbiology letters 2015 v.362 no.4 pp. 1-5
Flavobacterium columnare, Gram-negative bacteria, autoclaving, farmed fish, fish diseases, freshwater, gills, molecular weight, mucins, mucus, pathogenesis, pathogens, protein synthesis, swine, virulence
Flavobacterium columnare, an economically important Gram-negative bacterium of freshwater farmed fish, colonizes the skin and gills in the initial steps of pathogenesis. The surface of fish is coated with mucus made up of high molecular weight glycoproteins. Limited studies have described the ability of bacterial pathogens to grow in fish mucus. Our objective was to determine if F. columnare isolates could grow and survive in formulated water (FW) containing autoclaved tilapia mucus or porcine gastric mucin. We demonstrated the ability of F. columnare genomovars I, II, II-B and III to replicate (2–3 logs) and survive (21 to > 100 days) in FW containing tilapia mucus. In a second experiment, genomovar I and II isolates were found to replicate in FW containing tilapia mucus or porcine mucin but not in FW only. From a practical standpoint, fish handling and/or hauling results in stress that leads to mucus sloughing often with subsequent F. columnare infection. Flavobacterium columnare utilizes fish mucus as a nutrient source, and studies are underway to determine if growth in mucus or mucin results in differential protein expression and/or increased virulence of F. columnare towards fish.