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Title: Isolation, characterisation and application of bacteriophages in aquaculture
Author: Xu, Zinan
ISNI:       0000 0004 5923 0716
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2016
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The increasing incidence of infections due to antibiotic resistant bacteria has led to renewed interest in bacteriophages (= phages) and phage therapy. Although phage therapy has been applied to control bacterial diseases in plants, poultry, livestock and humans, its application in aquaculture is still relatively limited. The emergence of phage-resistant bacterial mutants has been considered to be one of the major limitations of phage therapy. This study aimed to (i) isolate and characterise phages; (ii) select phages and their bacterial hosts to set up in vivo phage therapy models with aquaculture animals, and estimate the efficiency of phage therapy; (iii) investigate the generation and characteristics of phage-resistant mutants, and thus estimate the consequence of applying phage therapy when phage-resistant mutants emerge; and (iv) discuss the prospects for application of phages in aquaculture. Two Vibrio isolates and their phages were isolated from a Scottish marine fish farm. Based on the results of conventional phenotype testing and 16S rRNA gene sequencing analysis, the two vibrios, V9 and V13, were identified as Vibrio splendidus and Vibrio cyclitrophicus, respectively. The bacterial characteristics including morphology, temperature and salinity range of growth, production of extracellular enzymes, and the possession of virulence genes were examined. According to the morphological characteristics observed using transmission electron microscopy by negative staining, phage PVS9 of V. splendidus V9 was identified as a myophage, while phage PVC13 of V. cyclitrophicus V13 was identified as a siphophage. The phages could only lyse one bacterial host strain and their genomic DNA was double stranded with a size of ~46 kb. The two Vibrio isolates were found to be non- or of low virulence to rainbow trout, goldsinny wrasse and Artemia in pathogenicity experiments. Thus an in vivo phage therapy model could not be set up using these Vibrio isolates and their phages. Two phages pAS-3 and pAS-6 were isolated using the Aeromonas salmonicida subsp. salmonicida Hooke strain as the host. Phages pAS-3 and pAS-6 had a similar genome size of ~50 kb, and the same relatively narrow host range within A. salmonicida subsp. salmonicida strains. The siphophage pAS-3 formed clear plaques and inhibited A. salmonicida Hooke growth in vitro completely for at least 18 hours when using MOI = 1,000, whereas the podophage pAS-6 formed turbid plaques and weakly inhibited Hooke growth. Rainbow trout exposed by intraperitoneal injection with 0.1 mL of the raw phage preparations at a concentration of 108 PUF mL-1 showed no adverse effects over 14 days. In the phage therapy trial, fish were firstly injected with 1 x 102 CFU fish-1 of A. salmonicida Hooke, then immediately injected with phage preparations of pAS-3 and pAS-6, respectively, using MOI = 10,000. Compared with the control group (which did not receive phage treatment), phage treated groups showed a delay in the time to death, and lower mortalities. However, the mortalities and time to death between phage treated and non-treated groups were not significantly different. Phage-resistant mutants of pathogenic A. salmonicida strain Hooke were induced by repeatedly challenging with phage pAS-3. One of the mutants, termed HM, was chosen to compare the characteristics with the parental wild-type strain Hooke. Test results including the formation of ‘smooth’ colonies on TSA, autoagglutination negative, the formation of creamy colonies on Coomassie Brilliant Blue agar, and the degradation of a thick/furry layered structure on the cell surface indicated a deficiency of the A-layer in the phage-resistant mutant HM. Therefore, it was deduced that the A-layer either directly acted as the receptor of A. salmonicida phage pAS-3, or was affected indirectly by the change of an unknown phage receptor. The greater wax moth larvae model was used to compare the virulence of the phage-resistant mutant HM and the parental wild-type strain Hooke, as it is an ethically acceptable animal model, which has the advantages of being low cost and convenient for injection, and is also a recognised alternative model for bacterial pathogens of fish. The results showed that virulence of the phage-resistant mutant HM did not decline in the greater wax moth larvae model compared with that of the parental wild-type strain Hooke. In conclusion, different approaches were used to isolate and characterise phages from different aquaculture environments for potential use in phage therapy. A rainbow trout model was set up using pathogenic A. salmonicida strain Hooke and two A. salmonicida phages pAS-3 and pAS-6. The use of phage treatment led to lower cumulative mortalities and delay to the time of death, although the differences between the groups were not significant, futher work is required to determine if these phages have potential in phage therapy. The consequence of applying phage therapy when phage-resistant mutants emerge was estimated based on their characteristics and virulence, and no decline in virulence of the phage-resistant mutant from this study indicates the importance of fully testing the virulence of phage-resistant mutants before carrying out large scale field trials of phage therapy. It appears feasible to use phage therapy as an alternative approach to control bacterial infections in aquaculture, but further studies are required to focus on improving effectiveness, and also to overcome the concrete limitations and hurdles in application and commercialisation. Moreover, a broader range of applications of phages in aquaculture should be explored.
Supervisor: Adams, Alexandra ; Crumlish, Mags ; Austin, Brian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: bacteriophage ; phage therapy ; rainbow trout ; Bacteriophages ; Fishes--Virus diseases ; Fishes--Diseases--Vaccines