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Dis Aquat Organ. 2011 May 9;94(3):189-99. doi: 10.3354/dao02324.

Tenacibaculum sp. associated with winter ulcers in sea-reared Atlantic salmon Salmo salar.

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National Veterinary Institute Bergen, 5811 Bergen, Norway.


Coldwater-associated ulcers, i.e. winter ulcers, in seawater-reared Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L. have been reported in Norway since the late 1980s, and Moritella viscosa has been established as an important factor in the pathogenesis of this condition. As routine histopathological examination of winter ulcer cases in our laboratory revealed frequent presence in ulcers of long, slender rods clearly different from M. viscosa, a closer study focusing on these bacteria was conducted. Field cases of winter ulcers during 2 sampling periods, 1996 and 2004-2005, were investigated and long, slender rods were observed by histopathological examination in 70 and 62.5% of the ulcers examined, respectively, whereas cultivation on marine agar resulted in the isolation of yellow-pigmented colonies with long rods from 3 and 13% of the ulcers only. The isolates could be separated into 2 groups, both identified as belonging to the genus Tenacibaculum based on phenotypic characterization and 16S rRNA sequencing. Bath challenge for 7 h confirmed the ability of Group 1 bacterium to produce skin and cornea ulcers. In fish already suffering from M. viscosa-induced ulcers, co-infection with the Group 1 bacterium was established within 1 h. Ulcers from field cases of winter ulcers and from the transmission experiments tested positive by immunohistochemistry with polyclonal antiserum against the Group 1 bacterium but not the Group 2 bacterium. Our results strongly indicate the importance of the Group 1 bacterium in the pathogenesis of winter ulcers in Norway. The bacterium is difficult to isolate and is therefore likely to be underdiagnosed based on cultivation only.

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