Columnaris disease: a review


I hope you will find this interesting - I think it is essential information for all aquarists, though you may have already obtained it from elsewhere.

I have just read a scientific paper on Columnaris disease and made some notes to test my knowledge and retain information to look up later when my brain has forgotten.

The scientists were doing their research at Ghent University in Belgium, which funnily enough is where I first got to know my wife as she was also studying there.

As Columnaris is such an important disease to us fish keepers, accounting for many of our disease problems, I thought I would post my notes here for people interested. It may be easier to read my notes than wade through the scientific paper as I have done to get the same information. However, it may lead you to look up further information as I have not gone to town explaining things that I already understand.

I will say one more important thing and that is the paper is a summary of our knowledge in 2013 so things could well have moved on since then, particularly as the fish-farming industry is losing millions or even billions to Columnaris every year. If you come up with more up to date information please post it here thanks.

(PDF) Columnaris disease in fish: A review with emphasis on bacterium-hot interactions

Columnaris disease in fish: a review with emphasis on bacterium-host interactions

Columnaris Notes:

Aerobic bacteria that are able to move by gliding (in unison not singly) on wet surfaces.

They have the ability to live commensally on fish

An infected fish can give off 5,000 colony-forming bacteria per hour.

Dead fish can have a higher transmission rate compared to living fish

The bacterium can remain infectious in water for 5 months

In unfavourable conditions they are able to form fruiting bodies with microspores

They can also form microcysts in order to spread and also survive unfavourable periods

Columnaris is distributed worldwide in fresh water and may infect many different species

It causes 30 million dollars pa damage in the catfish industry of the United States of America

Columnaris causes acute to chronic infections typically in the gills, the skin and the fins

This can progress to water-logging and septicaemia

It varies according to the strain

It is common for the disease to begin at the base of the dorsal fin and encircle the fish and this is referred to as saddle-back disease

Mouth rot also occurs and is termed mouth fungus

Secondary infections with fungi and other bacteria deteriorate the situation and this is termed cotton wool disease

Damage caused to the fins is termed fin rot

Edema can occur and is termed Dropsy

Columnaris can gain entry to the fish through wounds that damage the slime coat

Columnaris can somehow stick to the slime coat that normally protects the fish but this is poorly understood

When it attacks the skin it can penetrate into the muscle and produces an enzyme to do this

Columnaris releases bactericidal substances to eliminate competing bacteria

Fish can be protected from subsequent Columnaris infections by the adaptive immune system

Poor water quality and parasites increase the susceptibility of fish to Columnaris

Prevention of Columnaris is helped by reducing fish density

Prevention of Columnaris is helped by reducing the organic load

Prevention of Columnaris is helped by adding salt

Prevention of Columnaris is helped by regular feeding

Prevention of Columnaris is helped by treating fish with a copper sulphate bath

Prevention of Columnaris is helped by treating fish with potassium permanganate

Prevention of Columnaris is helped by treating fish with oxytetracycline

Prevention of Columnaris is helped by treating fish with a vaccine

Prevention of Columnaris is helped by treating fish with probiotics

Prevention of Columnaris is helped by breeding resistant fish including hybrids

Treatment of Columnaris is helped at an early stage by baths in chloramphenicol, nifurpirinol, nifurprazine and oxolinic acid

Treatment of Columnaris is helped at an advanced stage by oxytetracycline, nitrofuran and florfenicol given orally in the feed

The use of antimicrobial agents has negative attributes including allergic reactions from handling food, the emergence of drug-resistant Columnaris and the transfer of these resistant traits to the environment and to human-associated bacteria

Treatment of Columnaris is helped by the chemicals diquat, copper sulphate, potassium permanganate (the latter adjusted for the organic load)

Some phages are known to inhibit growth or lyse Columnaris and should be studied further

Despite the worldwide importance of Columnaris disease there are major knowledge gaps on how the pathogen is able to establish and maintain a grip on the skin and gill tissue and elicit disease and mortality

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