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Distribution of mycobacteria in clinically healthy ornamental fish and their aquarium environment

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Some mycobacterial species (particularly Mycobacterium marinum) found in aquarium environments may cause chronic diseases in fish and cutaneous infections in humans, the so-called ‘fish tank granuloma’. The presence and distribution of mycobacterial species in clinically healthy aquarium fish and their environment has not been adequately explored. The present study analysed the occurrence of mycobacteria in a decorative aquarium (Brno, South Moravia) and in five aquaria of a professional fish breeder (Bohumin, North Moravia). After Ziehl–Neelsen staining, acid-fast rods (AFR) were observed in six (14.3%) and mycobacteria were detected by culture in 18 (42.9%) of 42 tissue samples from 19 fish. Sixty-five samples of the aqueous environment from all six aquaria were examined; AFR were found in 16 (24.6%) and mycobacteria were detected by culture in 49 (75.4%) samples. Forty-one (70.7%) of 58 selected mycobacterial isolates were identified biochemically as follows: M. fortuitum, M. flavescens, M. chelonae, M. gordonae, M. terrae, M. triviale, M. diernhoferi, M. celatum, M. kansasii and M. intracellulare. The clinically important species for humans and fish, M. marinum, was not detected. Mycobacterium kansasii was isolated from one sample of the aquarium environment from North Moravia, which is a region of the Czech Republic with endemic incidence of M. kansasii in water. The incidence of other conditionally pathogenic mycobacterial species in healthy fish and in all investigated constituents of the aquarium environment including snails and crustaceans used for fish feeding, was quite high. Accordingly, mycobacterial species from aquarium environments may serve as a possible source of infection for both aquarium fish and immunodeficient fish handlers.
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Keywords: IS1245; IS901; atypical mycobacteria; dnaJ; swimming pool granuloma; zoonosis

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 July 2006

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