Infection patterns of Mycobacterium marinum were studied over a period of 3 yr in wild rabbitfish Siganus rivulatus populations associated with commercial mariculture cages and inhabiting various sites along the Israeli Red Sea coastline. Mycobacteriosis was first recorded from the Red Sea in 1990 in farmed sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax and is absent from records of studies on parasites and diseases of wild rabbitfish carried out in the 1970s and 1980s. A sharp increase in the prevalence of the disease in cultured and wild fish in the region has occurred since. A total of 1142 rabbitfish were examined over a 3 yr period from inside mariculture net cages, from the cage surroundings and from several sites along the coast. Histological sections of spleens were examined for presence of granulomatous lesions. Overall prevalence levels of 50% were recorded in the rabbitfish sampled inside the net cages and 39% at the cages' close surroundings, 21% at a sandy beach site 1.2 km westwards, 35% at Eilat harbour 3 km to the south and 42% at a coral reef site about 10 km south of the cages. In addition, 147 fish belonging to 18 native Red Sea species were sampled from 2 sites, the net cage farm perimeter and the coral reef area, and examined for similar lesions. None of those from the coral reef were infected with Mycobacterium; however, 9 of 14 species collected from the cage surroundings were infected. An increase in prevalence of mycobacteriosis in the mariculture farm area was noted from 1995 to 1997. At the same time, a significant increase in prevalence was also apparent at the coral reef sampling site. Two M. marinum isolates from rabbitfish captured at Eilat harbour and the coral reef site were shown by 16S rDNA sequencing analysis to be identical to isolates from rabbitfish trapped inside the mariculture cages as well as isolates from locally cultured sea bass D. labrax. The implications of spreading of M. marinum infection in wild fish populations in the Gulf of Eilat are discussed.
KEY WORDS: Mycobacterium
marinum · Spleen · Granuloma · Fish disease · 16S rDNA sequence · Coral
reef · Sea cages · Mariculture
in Diseases of Aquatic Organisms Vol.
39, No. 3 (2000) 211-219
ISSN: 0177-5103. Copyright © Inter-Research, Oldendorf/Luhe, 2000
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