A bacterium causing an epidemic among catfish farms in the southeastern United States is closely related to organisms found in diseased grass carp in China, according to researchers at Auburn University in Alabama and three other institutions. The study, published this week in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, suggests that the virulent U.S. fish epidemic emerged from an Asian source.
Since 2009, catfish farming in Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas has been seriously impacted by an emerging strain of Aeromonas hydrophila, which causes Aeromonas septicemia in catfish. A serious infection that can cause death in as little as 12 hours, Aeromonas septicemia's clinical signs include skin lesions and blood loss.
Normally A. hydrophila, which can be found in both fresh and brackish water, only affects fish that are stressed or injured. But the newer strain has affected even apparently healthy fish with no obvious signs of duress, says senior study author Mark Liles, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn.
When initial tests of the diseased fish showed A. hydrophila was responsible, says Liles, scientists "didn't believe it at first, because the signs didn't match the more typical opportunistic infections in stressed fish that we associate with A. hydrophila." To date, disease outbreaks have been responsible for an estimated loss of more than $12 million in catfish aquaculture operations in the southeastern United States, he says.
Liles and colleagues studied the molecular epidemiology of the epidemic-causing A. hydrophila to try to trace its evolution. They compared samples of the bacteria to 264 known Aeromonas strains in an international database. Only one virulent strain came close to matching the one sampled from Alabama: ZC1, isolated from a diseased grass carp in China's Guangdong Province. ZC1 was isolated from fish that had experienced an epidemic outbreak atypical of Aeromonas infections.
Researchers also identified a less aggressive related A. hydrophila strain called S04-690, taken in 2004 from a diseased catfish in a commercial aquaculture pond in Mississippi. That strain caused a serious Aeromonas septicemia outbreak that killed thousands of catfish but did not result in an epidemic on neighboring farms.
Next, the scientists evaluated the evolutionary relationships of additional Chinese carp bacteria samples from epidemics in the Hubei Province in China. This revealed that all of the Chinese carp bacteria samples, including ZC1, group together with the recent U.S. epidemic samples of bacteria in catfish, suggesting that a common ancestor is responsible for the virulent A. hydrophila strains causing fish disease in both China and the United States.
S04-690, from the Mississippi fish, also was found to be in the same group, related to both the U.S. catfish and Asian carp bacteria. However, it was genetically distinct from the other two strains. By contrast, A. hydrophila strains that do not cause epidemics are more heterogeneous.
Additional experiments found that isolated bacteria from diseased catfish in America and diseased carp in China shared alternate forms of 10 key 'housekeeping' genes required for basic cellular function.
It's not clear how the bacterium was introduced in America, Liles says. It could be from importing Asian carp to America for aquatic weed control, or from transporting ornamental fish or contaminated processed seafood products from Asia. The spread of disease among farms also is not fully understood but could result from birds that move from pond to pond eating catfish, or from harvesting equipment that may be insufficiently sanitized between uses.
Liles and other researchers are investigating means to control the spread of illness, including developing vaccines against the bacteria, and using medicated feed and/or probiotics. Meanwhile, he says, U.S. farmed catfish are safe to eat and pose no disease threat to humans due to strict standards regarding harvesting and processing of sick animals.
The study was funded by Auburn University and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.
mBio® is an open access online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology to make microbiology research broadly accessible. The focus of the journal is on rapid publication of cutting-edge research spanning the entire spectrum of microbiology and related fields. It can be found online at http://mbio.asm.org.
The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.
Jim Sliwa | Eurek Alert!
Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells
12.12.2018 | Universität Basel
Smelling the forest – not the trees
12.12.2018 | Universität Konstanz
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.
Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
12.12.2018 | Health and Medicine
12.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
12.12.2018 | Health and Medicine