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Clostridium botulinum type E occurs and grows in the alga Cladophora glomerata

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In recent years, massive avian die-offs from Clostridium botulinum type E infection have occurred in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SLBE) area of Lake Michigan. These outbreaks have been coincidental with massive blooms of the green algae Cladophora, mostly Cladophora glomerata. We tested the hypothesis that Clostridium botulinum type E can grow under suitable conditions in these algal mats. In a lab mesocosm study, Cladophora from four outbreak-impacted beaches from SLBE were compared with four unimpacted beaches in the Milwaukee–Racine area for bontE gene of Clostridium botulinum. Frequency of the bontE gene was higher after incubation (25°C for up to 6weeks) of Cladophora from impacted vs. the unimpacted area. Since no type E gene was detected initially in Cladophora from any of the eight locations, we infer that the increased occurrence of type E gene arose from spore germination or vegetative Clostridium growth within the existing algal mats of SLBE. Moreover, we found that the congener Clostridium perfringens readily grows in mesocosms containing Cladophora.

Ces dernières années, il y a eu des mortalités massives d’oiseaux dues à une infection à Clostridium botulinum type E dans la région de Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SLBE) au lac Michigan. Ces épidémies ont coïncidé avec des fleurs d’eau massives d’algues vertes Cladophora, principalement Cladophora glomerata. Nous testons l’hypothèse selon laquelle Clostridium botulinum type E peut se développer dans des conditions adéquates dans ces tapis d’algues. Dans une étude de laboratoire en mésocosme, nous avons comparé la présence du gène bontE de Clostridium botulinum chez des Cladophora provenant de quatre plages affectées par l’épidémie à SLBE et de quatre plages non affectées près de la région de Milwaukee–Racine. La fréquence du gène bontE est plus élevée après l’incubation (25ºC pour jusqu’à 6 semaines) de Cladophora provenant des zones affectées que d’algues venant de zones non affectées. Puisqu’aucun gène de type E n’a été décelé au départ chez les Cladophora de l’ensemble des huit provenances, nous en déduisons que l’augmentation de la fréquence du gène de type E s’explique par la germination de spores ou par la croissance végétative de Clostridium dans les tapis d’algues existants de SLBE. De plus, nous observons que le congénère Clostridium perfringens se développe volontiers dans les mésocosmes contenant des Cladophora.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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