DAO 122:85-103 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03057

Isolation of Tasmanian Rickettsia-like organism (RLO) from farmed salmonids: identification of multiple serotypes and confirmation of pathogenicity

R. N. Morrison1,*, N. D. Young2, G. Knowles1, M. C. Cornish1, J. Carson

1Animal Health Laboratories, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE), Launceston, Tasmania 7250, Australia
2Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L. farmed in south-east Tasmania, Australia, are susceptible to infection by the Tasmanian Rickettsia-like organism (TRLO), a Gram-negative bacterium. Here, we report the first isolation of TRLO from south-east Tasmania in pure culture and show that the bacterium is culturable on both specialised enriched agar and in cell culture using the CHSE-214 cell line. In vitro cultured TRLO was used to reproducibly elicit disease in Atlantic salmon parr held in fresh water. In inoculated fish, TRLO was observed intracytoplasmically in peripheral blood leucocytes, suggesting that these cells are responsible for haematogenous dispersal of the bacterium within the host. Fish with experimentally induced disease presented with gross and histopathological changes similar to TRLO-infected fish at commercial marine farms. TRLO was also isolated in culture from farmed Atlantic salmon in the Tamar River and Macquarie Harbour production areas in Tasmania, both of which have no history of TRLO-associated disease. These TRLO isolates appear to be serologically distinct from each other as well as from isolates obtained from south-east Tasmania, linking each serotype to a specific geographical location within Tasmania. Despite the lack of clinical evidence of TRLO-linked disease in fish grown in the Tamar River and Macquarie Harbour, experimental infection trials demonstrably showed the pathogenic potential of these TRLO serovars. Together, these data provide evidence that TRLO is a fastidious, facultative intracellular bacterium and confirm TRLO as a pathogen of Atlantic salmon, causing a disease designated Tasmanian salmonid rickettsiosis.


KEY WORDS: Rickettsia-like organism · TRLO · Atlantic salmon · Salmo salar · Culture · Pathogenicity · Tasmania


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Cite this article as: Morrison RN, Young ND, Knowles G, Cornish MC, Carson J (2016) Isolation of Tasmanian Rickettsia-like organism (RLO) from farmed salmonids: identification of multiple serotypes and confirmation of pathogenicity. Dis Aquat Org 122:85-103. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03057

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