DAO 114:21-43 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02846

Testing of candidate non-lethal sampling methods for detection of Renibacterium salmoninarum in juvenile Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

Diane G. Elliott*, Constance L. McKibben, Carla M. Conway, Maureen K. Purcell, Dorothy M. Chase, LynnMarie J. Applegate

US Geological Survey, Western Fisheries Research Center, 6505 Northeast 65th Street, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Non-lethal pathogen testing can be a useful tool for fish disease research and management. Our research objectives were to determine if (1) fin clips, gill snips, surface mucus scrapings, blood draws, or kidney biopsies could be obtained non-lethally from 3 to 15 g Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, (2) non-lethal samples could accurately discriminate between fish exposed to the bacterial kidney disease agent Renibacterium salmoninarum and non-exposed fish, and (3) non-lethal samples could serve as proxies for lethal kidney samples to assess infection intensity. Blood draws and kidney biopsies caused ≥5% post-sampling mortality (Objective 1) and may be appropriate only for larger fish, but the other sample types were non-lethal. Sampling was performed over 21 wk following R. salmoninarum immersion challenge of fish from 2 stocks (Objectives 2 and 3), and nested PCR (nPCR) and real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) results from candidate non-lethal samples were compared with kidney tissue analysis by nPCR, qPCR, bacteriological culture, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), fluorescent antibody test (FAT) and histopathology/immunohistochemistry. R. salmoninarum was detected by PCR in >50% of fin, gill, and mucus samples from challenged fish. Mucus qPCR was the only non-lethal assay exhibiting both diagnostic sensitivity and specificity estimates >90% for distinguishing between R. salmoninarum-exposed and non-exposed fish and was the best candidate for use as an alternative to lethal kidney sample testing. Mucus qPCR R. salmoninarum quantity estimates reflected changes in kidney bacterial load estimates, as evidenced by significant positive correlations with kidney R. salmoninarum infection intensity scores at all sample times and in both fish stocks, and were not significantly impacted by environmental R. salmoninarum concentrations.


KEY WORDS: Bacterial kidney disease · Non-lethal sampling · Renibacterium salmoninarum · Salmonid · Polymerase chain reaction · PCR


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Cite this article as: Elliott DG, McKibben CL, Conway CM, Purcell MK, Chase DM, Applegate LJ (2015) Testing of candidate non-lethal sampling methods for detection of Renibacterium salmoninarum in juvenile Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha. Dis Aquat Org 114:21-43. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02846

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