Aeromonas hydrophila is a gram-negative, rod-shaped, facultative, anaerobic bacterium that is ubiquitous in freshwater and slightly brackish aquatic environments and infects fish, humans, reptiles, and birds. Recent severe outbreaks of disease in commercial channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) aquaculture ponds have been associated with a highly virulent A. hydrophila strain (VAH), which is genetically distinct from less-virulent strains. The epidemiology of this disease has not been determined. Given that A. hydrophila infects birds, we hypothesized that fish-eating birds may serve as a reservoir for VAH and spread the pathogen by flying to uninfected ponds. Great Egrets (Ardea alba) were used in this transmission model because these wading birds frequently prey on farmed catfish. Great Egrets that were fed VAH-infected catfish shed VAH in feces demonstrating their potential to spread VAH.
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