Multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat genotyping of Renibacterium salmoninarum, a bacterium causing bacterial kidney disease in salmonid fish

Iveta Matejusova, Nicola Bain, Duncan J. Colquhoun, Edward J. Feil, Una McCarthy, Darryl McLennan, Michael Snow, David Verner-Jeffreys, I. Stuart Wallace, Sarah J. Weir, Malcolm Hall

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Bacterial kidney disease (BKD), caused by Renibacterium salmoninarum, is a bacterial disease of fish, which is both geographically widespread and difficult to control. Previously, application of various molecular typing methods has failed to reliably discriminate between R. salmoninarum isolates originating from different host species and geographic areas. The current study aimed to utilize multilocus variable number tandem repeats (VNTR) to investigate inter-strain variation of R. salmoninarum to establish whether host-specific populations exist in Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout respectively. Such information would be valuable in risk assessment of transmission of R. salmoninarum in a multispecies aquaculture environment. Results: The present analysis utilizing sixteen VNTRs distinguished 17 different haplotypes amongst 41 R. salmoninarum isolates originating from Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout in Scotland, Norway and the US. The VNTR typing system revealed two well supported groups of R. salmoninarum haplotypes. The first group included R. salmoninarum isolates originating from both Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout circulating in Scottish and Norwegian aquaculture, in addition to the type strain ATCC33209§ssup§T§esup§ originating from Chinook salmon in North America. The second group comprised isolates found exclusively in Atlantic salmon, of mainly wild origin, including isolates NCIB1114 and NCIB1116 associated with the original Dee disease in Scotland. Conclusions: The present study confirmed that VNTR analysis can be successfully applied to discriminate R. salmoninarum strains. There was no clear distinction between isolates originating from Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout as several haplotypes in group 1 clustered together R. salmoninarum isolates from both species. These findings indicate a potential exchange of pathogens between Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout in Scottish and Norwegian aquaculture during the last 20 years. In a scenario of expansion of rainbow trout farming into the marine environment, appropriate biosecurity measures to minimize disease occurrence are advised. The present results also suggest that R. salmoninarum isolates circulating in European aquaculture over the last 20 years are genetically distant to the wild strains originally causing BKD in the rivers Dee and Spey.

Original languageEnglish
Article number285
JournalBMC Microbiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2013


  • Bacterial kidney disease
  • Genotyping
  • Renibacterium
  • Salmonids
  • VNTR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)

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