Mycobacteriosis in zebrafish (Danio rerio) research facilities

Michael L. Kent, Christopher M. Whipps, Jennifer L. Matthews, Daniela Florio, Virginia Watral, Janell K. Bishop-Stewart, Melanie Poort, Luiz Bermudez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


The Zebrafish International Resource Center was established to support the zebrafish research community, and includes a diagnostic service. One of the most common diseases that we have diagnosed is mycobacteriosis, which represented 18% of the diagnostic cases submitted from November 1999 to June 2003. We describe here the severity of the disease and associated pathological changes of 24 diagnostic cases from 14 laboratories. Identifications of the bacteria are provided for seven of these cases. For two cases in which culture of the organism was not successful, these identifications were based on ribosomal DNA (rDNA) sequence analysis obtained directly from infected tissues. Biochemical characteristics and rDNA sequence analysis from cultures are reported for the other isolates. Two severe outbreaks from different facilities on different continents were associated with an organism identified as Mycobacterium haemophilum based on rDNA sequence from tissues. Another severe outbreak was associated with an organism most closely related to Mycobacterium peregrinum. These species are recognized pathogens of humans, but this is the first report of them from fish. Bacteria identified as Mycobacterium chelonae or M. abscessus were recovered from fish in cases categorized as moderate disease or as an incidental finding. These findings indicate that species of Mycobacterium previously undescribed from fish (i.e., M. haemophilum and M. peregrinum) may pose significant health problems in zebrafish research facilities, whereas species and strains that are already recognized as common in fish usually cause limited disease on a population basis in zebrafish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-390
Number of pages8
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - C Toxicology and Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Danio rerio
  • Mycobacterium abscessus
  • Mycobacterium chelonae
  • Mycobacterium haemophilum
  • Mycobacterium peregrinum
  • Mycobacterium septicum
  • zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Toxicology
  • Cell Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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