DAO 61:41-51 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/dao061041

Isolation and characterization of mycobacteria from striped bass Morone saxatilis from the Chesapeake Bay

Martha W. Rhodes1,*, Howard Kator1, Ilsa Kaattari1, David Gauthier1, Wolfgang Vogelbein1, Christopher A. Ottinger2

1Department of Environmental and Aquatic Animal Health, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062, USA
2United States Geological Survey, Leetown Science Center, National Fish Health Research Laboratory, Kearneysville, West Virginia 25430, USA

ABSTRACT: Mycobacteriosis in striped bass Morone saxatilis of Chesapeake Bay, USA, was first diagnosed in 1997 based on the presence of granulomatous inflammation and acid-fast bacteria in skin and spleen. To confirm histopathology, bacteriological detection and identification of mycobacteria were begun using splenic tissue from fish with and without skin ulcerations. On the basis of initial studies using a variety of selective and nonselective media, decontamination, homogenization and incubation conditions, a simple and quantitative recovery method using aseptic necropsy of splenic tissue was developed. Optimal recovery was obtained by spread-plating homogenates on Middlebrook 7H10 agar with incubation for 3 mo at 23°C. Mycobacteria were recovered from 76% (n = 149/196) of fish examined. Mycobacterial densities exceeded 104 colony forming units · g tissue-1 in 38% of samples (n = 63/168) that were examined using a quantitative approach. The most frequently recovered mycobacterium, present in 57% (n = 109/192) of characterized samples, was the recently named new species Mycobacterium shottsii. Polyinfections of M. shottsii and other mycobacteria were observed in 25% of samples (n = 47/192) with densities of M. shottsii usually 1 or more orders of magnitude higher than co-isolate(s). Other mycobacteria recovered included isolates that, based on phenotypic traits, resembled M. interjectum, M. marinum, M. scrofulaceum, M. szulgai and M. triplex. M. marinum, commonly associated with fish mycobacteriosis and human disease, was recovered infrequently (3%, n = 6/192). The presence of multiple mycobacterial types occurring at high densities suggests that a variety of mycobacteria could be causative agents of mycobacteriosis in striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay. Striped bass is the major recreational fish species in the Chesapeake Bay, and the significance of the current epizootic to human health and the potential adverse effects on fish stocks are not known.


KEY WORDS: Mycobacteriosis · Fish disease · Striped bass · Morone saxatilis · Mycobacterium marinum · Mycobacterium shottsii


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