Phylogenetic analyses of Norwegian Tenacibaculum strains confirm high bacterial diversity and suggest circulation of ubiquitous virulent strains
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionPLOS ONE. 2021, 16 (10), e0259215. 10.1371/journal.pone.0259215
Tenacibaculosis is a bacterial ulcerative disease affecting marine fish and represents a major threat to aquaculture worldwide. Its aetiological agents, bacteria belonging to the genus Tenacibaculum, have been present in Norway since at least the late 1980’s and lead to regular ulcerative outbreaks and high mortalities in production of farmed salmonids. Studies have shown the presence of several Tenacibaculum species in Norway and a lack of clonality in outbreak-related strains, thus preventing the development of an effective vaccine. Hence, a thorough examination of the bacterial diversity in farmed fish presenting ulcers and the geographical distribution of the pathogens should provide important insights needed to strengthen preventive actions. In this study, we investigated the diversity of Tenacibaculum strains isolated in 28 outbreaks that occurred in Norwegian fish farms in the period 2017–2020. We found that 95% of the 66 strains isolated and characterized, using an existing MultiLocus Sequence Typing system, have not previously been identified, confirming the high diversity of this genus of bacteria in Norway. Several of these Tenacibaculum species seem to be present within restricted areas (e.g., Tenacibaculum dicentrarchi in western Norway), but phylogenetic analysis reveals that several of the strains responsible of ulcerative outbreaks were isolated from different localities (e.g., ST- 172 isolated from northern to southern parts of Norway) and/or from different hosts. Understanding their reservoirs and transmission pathways could help to address major challenges in connection with prophylactic measures and development of vaccines.