Husbandry stress exacerbates mycobacterial infections in adult zebrafish, Danio rerio (Hamilton)

Authors

  • J M Ramsay,

    1.  Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
    2.  Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
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  • V Watral,

    1.  Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
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  • C B Schreck,

    1.  Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
    2.  Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, US Geological Survey, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR,  USA
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  • M L Kent

    1.  Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
    2.  Department of Biomedical Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
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M Kent, Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
(e-mail: michael.kent@oregonstate.edu)

Abstract

Mycobacteria are significant pathogens of laboratory zebrafish, Danio rerio (Hamilton). Stress is often implicated in clinical disease and morbidity associated with mycobacterial infections but has yet to be examined with zebrafish. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of husbandry stressors on zebrafish infected with mycobacteria. Adult zebrafish were exposed to Mycobacterium marinum or Mycobacterium chelonae, two species that have been associated with disease in zebrafish. Infected fish and controls were then subjected to chronic crowding and handling stressors and examined over an 8-week period. Whole-body cortisol was significantly elevated in stressed fish compared to non-stressed fish. Fish infected with M. marinum ATCC 927 and subjected to husbandry stressors had 14% cumulative mortality while no mortality occurred among infected fish not subjected to husbandry stressors. Stressed fish, infected with M. chelonae H1E2 from zebrafish, were 15-fold more likely to be infected than non-stressed fish at week 8 post-injection. Sub-acute, diffuse infections were more common among stressed fish infected with M. marinum or M. chelonae than non-stressed fish. This is the first study to demonstrate an effect of stress and elevated cortisol on the morbidity, prevalence, clinical disease and histological presentation associated with mycobacterial infections in zebrafish. Minimizing husbandry stress may be effective at reducing the severity of outbreaks of clinical mycobacteriosis in zebrafish facilities.

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