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Open Access Diagnosis and Management of Atypical Mycobacterium spp. Infections in Established Laboratory Zebrafish (Brachydanio rerio) Facilities

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Two established zebrafish colonies experienced increased mortality and decreased reproductive performance. Initial examination of several fish from one facility revealed hyperemic gills, petechia around the opercula, abdominal distention, and emaciation. Affected fish had congested liver with inflammation and multifocal hepatic necrosis. Large numbers of acid-fast-positive, rod-shaped bacteria were evident in multiple tissues and the blood. Mycobacterium fortuitum was subsequently isolated from several fish. Zebrafish from the second facility had skin erosions and ulceration along the flank just caudal to the pectoral fins. Large numbers of acid-fast-positive, rod-shaped bacteria were observed within the necrotic centers of well-demarcated, multifocal granulomas in go- nads, liver, and peritoneum from affected fish. Mycobacterium abscessus and M. chelonae were isolated and identified biochemically. Definitive diagnosis in these outbreaks was obtained by culture on selective media. Because Mycobacterium spp. grow extremely slowly and positive confirmation may require 45 to 60 days, Mycobacterium species-specific polymerase chain reaction analysis was used to provide a rapid screening assay for Mycobacterium spp. as well as for verification of culture results. To our knowledge, this is the first documentation of mycobacterial infection in laboratory-maintained zebrafish and provides guidelines for diagnosis, management, and prevention of atypical mycobacteriosis in laboratory zebrafish colonies.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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