Furunculosis, caused by the bacterium Aeromonas salmonicida, was artificially induced in brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in an experimental tank. Ebonyshells (Fusconaia ebena) were placed to cohabit with these fish to acquire the pathogen through siphoning. After 2 wk of cohabitation, 10 of the mussels were assayed by bacterial culture and all were found to harbor A. salmonicida. The mean cell count from soft tissue homogenates was 1.84 × 105 cfu/g, which comprised an average 14.41% of the total bacteria isolated from tissues. From the fluids, a mean of 2.84 × 105 A. salmonicida cfu/mL was isolated, which comprised an average of 17.29% of the total bacterial flora. The mussels were removed from the cohabitation tank and distributed equally among five previously disinfected tanks, 35 per tank. The F. ebena in each tank were allowed to depurate A. salmonicida for various durations: 1, 5, 10, 15 or 30 days. After each group had depurated for their assigned time, 10 were assayed for bacteria, tank water was tested, and 20 pathogen-free bioindicator brook trout were added to cohabit with the remaining mussels. Depuration was considered successful if A. salmonicida was not isolated from tank water or the mussels, and there was no infection or mortality to bioindicator fish. After 1 day of depuration, A. salmonicida was not isolated from the soft tissues; however, it was isolated from one of the paired fluids (10% prevalence). The tank water tested positive, and the bioindicator fish became infected and died. From the 5-day depuration group, A. salmonicida was not isolated from soft tissues, but was isolated from three fluids (30%; mean = 1.56 × 102 cfu/mL). Tank water from the 5-day group was negative, and there was no mortality among the bioindicator fish. However, A. salmonicida was isolated from 2 of 20 fish at the end of the 14-day observation period. One F. ebena fluid sample was positive for A. salmonicida from the 10-day depuration group, but none of the soft tissue homogenates. The pathogen was not isolated from 10-day tank water, but there was a 30% cumulative mortality to the bioindicator fish. Aeromonas salmonicida was not isolated from any of the soft tissue homogenates, fluids or tank water from the 15 day or 30 day depuration groups, and the bioindicator fish remained pathogen- and disease-free. Study results showed that the F. ebena were harboring a high A. salmonicida cell load going into depuration, but at 15 days and beyond, the pathogen had been depurated to the extent that the mussels did not serve as pathogen vectors.
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Vol. 24 • No. 2