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Colonization of fish skin is vital for Vibrio anguillarum to cause disease


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Vibrio anguillarum causes a fatal haemorrhagic septicaemia in marine fish. During initial stages of infection, host surfaces are colonized; however, few virulence factors required for colonization of the host are identified. In this study, in vivo bioluminescent imaging was used to analyse directly the colonization of the whole rainbow trout animal by V. anguillarum. The wild type rapidly colonized both the skin and the intestines by 24 h; however, the bacterial numbers on the skin were significantly higher than in the intestines indicating that skin colonization may be important for disease to occur. Mutants defective for the anguibactin iron uptake system, exopolysaccharide transport, or Hfq, an RNA chaperone, were attenuated for virulence, did not colonize the skin, and penetrated skin mucus less efficiently than the wild type. These mutants, however, did colonize the intestines and were as resistant to 2% bile salts as is the wild type. Moreover, exopolysaccharide mutants were significantly more sensitive to lysozyme and antimicrobial peptides, while the Hfq and anguibactin mutants were sensitive to lysozyme compared with the wild type. Vibrio anguillarum encodes several mechanisms to protect against antimicrobial components of skin mucus enabling an amazingly abundant growth on the skin enhancing its disease opportunities.

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