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Seasonal Occurrence of Aeromonas salmonicida Carriers


Furunculosis is one of the most economically important bacterial diseases among salmonids in fish farms, and is very often controlled by use of antibiotics and chemotherapeutics. Sulfamerazine has generally been the drug of choice (Snieszko, 1978). From an environmental quality point of view it is not advisable to use antibiotics and chemoterapeutics routinely in the natural environment as antibiotic-resistant bacteria might emerge. This problem also implies aspects of interest for human public health. Attempts to control furunculosis by means of vaccines were made by Antipa and Amend (1977) and Udey and Fryer (1978), and their results indicate that it is a pOSSible method. However, further investigations must be carried out before an effective prophylaxis can be established. The elucidation of the interaction between host, pathogen, and environment in cases of nonclinical furunculosis may contribute to a better understanding of the pathogenesis of the disease and the development of preventive measures. Bullock and Stuckey (1975) developed a method for the detection of symptom-free carrier of Aeramanas salmanieida. This method was later used in different modifications by Jensen (1977) and McCarthy (1977). To study the hostparasite relationship a seasonal registration of the carrier rate of Aeramanas salmanieida was performed.

Materials and Methods

Fish from two fish farms which usually had problems with furunculosis were selected for a seasonal study of the carrier prevalence. One of the fish farms cultured mainly brown trout (Sa/ma trutta) and the other rainbow trout (Salma gairdneri). The carrier detection experiments were carried out according to Jensen (1977). Water temperature and oxygen content in the water were measured by an ElL oxygen meter 1520 at the time the fish were taken from the fish farm.

I Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Copenhagen, Denmark

W. Ahne (ed.), Fish Diseases Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1980


N.J. Jensen and J.L. Larsen

Table 1. Seasonal carrier rate of Aeromonas salmonicida in brown trout and rainbow trout from two different trout farms Fish Water temperature at the fish farm Oxygen content in the water at the fish farm Experimental water temperature Number of fish Number of fish infected Infected with A. salmonicida Infected with A. salmonicida (%) Infected with A. hydrophila Infected with A. hydrophila (%)
A. salmonicida carrier rate (%)

Brown trout

Rainbow trout



15 C


50%-60% 18C 20 20 18 90 2 10 90

90%-100% 18 C 46 12 0 0 12 26 0

45%-55% 23C 45 38 25 66

90%-100% 23 C 56 3 0 0 3 5 0

34 55

The seasonal prevalence of the Aerornonas salrnonicida carriers is listed in Table 1. The brown trout generally died within 3-6 days in the summer period, but in the winter period half of the brown trout were alive on the 6 th day. Most of the rainbow trout survived the 6 th day in the winter period. The trouts were subsequently killed and submitted to a bacteriological examination.

Discussion and Conclusion

A simultaneous challenge of brown trout (Salrno trutta) and rainbow trout (Salrno gairdneri) to the stress of corticosteroids and elevated temperature showed a very characteristic pattern in the seasonal occurrence of Aerornonas salrnonicida carriers in farms with furunculosis problems. These carriers were restricted to the summer period, whilst the Aerornonas hydrophi/a infection was found both in the summer and the winter period. There is a clear and important difference in the biology of the two Aerornonas species. Aerornonas salrnonicida seems to be a pathogen generally attached to the trouts, while Aerorno-

Seasonal Occurrence of Aeromonas salmonicida Carriers


nas hydrophila is a bacterium with habitat in aquatic environments, where the prevalence is influenced by temperature and the presence of organic matter (pollution). In general the Aeromonas salmonicida carriers occur concomitant with the appearance of clinical furunculosis in the locality in question. The appearance of the disease is greatly influenced by high water temperature and it seems therefore to disappear during the winter period, when no carriers could be found. In spring when trout are transferred to other fish farms or a marine environment, the problem of the existence of carriers arises. These carriers could bring Aeromonas salmonicida into the environment. When the temperature rises in early summer outbreaks of furunculosis occur in fish with another immunological status. It is therefore important to develop methods to find such non detectable carriers, and disclose the real habitat of the bacterium during the winter. Such information could be used as guidance on prophylactic measures to be used, such as introduction of Aeromonassalmonicida-free trout or application of a vaccination method.

Antipa R, Amend DF (1977) Immunization of Pacific salmon and comparison of intraperitoneal injection and hyperosmotic infiltration of Vibrio anguillarum and Aeromonas salmonicida bacterins. J Fish Res Board Can 34:203-208 Bullock GL, Stuckey HH (1975) Aeromonas salmonicida: Detection of a symptomatically infected trout. Prog Fish Cult 37(4): 237-239 Jensen NJ (1977) The diagnosis of furunculosis in salmonids. Bull Off Int Epiz 87(5-6):469-473 McCarthy DH (1977) Some ecological aspects of the bacterial fish pathogen. In: Skinner FA, Sherwan JM (eds) Aeromonas salmonicida in Aquatic microbiology. Academic Press, London New York, pp 299-324 Snieszko SF (1978) Control of fish diseases. Mar Fish Rev 40(3):65 -68 Udey LR, Fryer JL (1978) Immunization of fish with bacterins of Aeromonas salmonicida. Mar Fish Rev 40(3): 12-17