Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) have been implicated as the source of type C toxin in avian botulism outbreaks in pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) at the Salton Sea in southern California (USA). We collected sick, dead, and healthy fish from various sites throughout the Sea during the summers of 1999 through 2001 and tested them for the presence of Clostridium botulinum type C cells by polymerase chain reaction targeting the C1 neurotoxin gene. Four of 96 (4%), 57 of 664 (9%), and five of 355 (1%) tilapia tested were positive for C. botulinum type C toxin gene in 1999, 2000, and 2001, respectively. The total number of positive fish was significantly greater in 2000 than in 2001 (P<0.0001). No difference in numbers of positives was detected between sick and dead fish compared with live fish. In 2000, no significant relationships were revealed among the variables studied, such as location and date of collection.
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