DAO 35:107-113 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/dao035107

Relative virulence of three isolates of Piscirickettsia salmonis for coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch

M. L. House1,2, J. L. Bartholomew1, J. R. Winton2, J. L. Fryer1,*

1Center for Salmon Disease Research and Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331-3804, USA
2Western Fisheries Research Center, United States Geological Survey, 6505 NE 65th St., Seattle, Washington 98115, USA
*Addressee for correspondence. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Piscirickettsia salmonis was first recognized as the cause of mortality among pen-reared coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch in Chile. Since the initial isolation of this intracellular Gram-negative bacterium in 1989, similar organisms have been described from several areas of the world, but the associated outbreaks were not reported to be as serious as those that occurred in Chile. To determine if this was due to differences in virulence among isolates of P. salmonis, we conducted an experiment comparing isolates from Chile, British Columbia, Canada, and Norway (LF-89, ATL-4-91 and NOR-92, respectively). For each of the isolates, 3 replicates of 30 coho salmon were injected intraperitoneally with each of 3 concentrations of the bacterium. Negative control fish were injected with MEM-10. Mortalities were collected daily for 41 d post-injection. Piscirickettsiosis was observed in fish injected with each of the 3 isolates, and for each isolate, cumulative mortality was directly related to the concentration of bacterial cells administered. The LF-89 isolate was the most virulent, with losses reaching 97% in the 3 replicates injected with 105.0 TCID50, 91% in the replicates injected with 104.0 TCID50, and 57% in the fish injected with 103.0 TCID50. The ATL-4-91 isolate caused losses of 92% in the 3 replicates injected with 105.0 TCID50, 76% in the fish injected with 104.0 TCID50, and 32% in those injected with 103.0 TCID50. The NOR-92 isolate was the least virulent, causing 41% mortality in the replicates injected with 104.6 TCID50. At 41 d post-injection, 6% of the fish injected with 103.6 TCID50 NOR-92 had died. Mortality was only 2% in the fish injected with 102.6 TCID50 NOR-92, which was the same as the negative control group. Because the group injected with the highest concentration (104.6 TCID50) of NOR-92 was still experiencing mortality at 41 d, it was held for an additional 46 d. At 87 d post-injection, the cumulative mortality in this group had reached 70%. These differences in virulence among the isolates were statistically significant (p < 0.0001), and are important for the management of affected stocks of fish.

KEY WORDS: Piscirickettsia · Virulence · Salmon · Disease

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