There are a number of significant diseases among cultured and free-ranging freshwater fishes that have a bacterial etiology; these represent a variety of gram-negative and gram-positive genera. Confirmatory diagnosis of these diseases involves primary isolation of the causative bacterium on bacteriologic media. Frequently used “general” bacteriologic media simply provide the essential nutrients for growth. For most of the major pathogens, however, there are differential and/or selective media that facilitate primary recovery. Some specialized media are available as “ready-to-use” from suppliers, while others must be prepared. Differential media employ various types of indicator systems, such as pH indicators, that allow diagnosticians to observe assimilation of selected substrates. An advantage to the use of differential media for primary isolation is that they hasten bacterial characterization by yielding the appropriate positive or negative result for a particular substrate, often leading to a presumptive identification. Selective media also incorporate agent(s) that inhibit the growth of contaminants typically encountered with samples from aquatic environments. Media that incorporate differential and/or selective components are ideally based on characters that are unique to the targeted bacterium, and their use can reduce the time associated with diagnosis and facilitate early intervention in affected fish populations. In this review, the concepts of general and differential/selective bacteriologic media and their use and development for fish pathogens are discussed. The media routinely employed for primary isolation of the significant bacterial pathogens of fishes are presented.
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Vol. 44 • No. 1