Pathogen density and genetic diversity fluctuate in the outside-host environment during and between epidemics, affecting disease emergence and the severity and probability of infections. Although the importance of these factors for pathogen virulence and infection probability has been acknowledged, their interactive effects are not well understood. We studied how an infective dose in an environmentally transmitted opportunistic fish pathogen, Flavo-bacterium columnare, affects its virulence both in rainbow trout, which are frequently infected at fish farms, and in zebra fish, a host that is not naturally infected by F. columnare. We used previously isolated strains of confirmed high and low virulence in a single infection and in a co-infection. Infection success (measured as host morbidity) correlated positively with dose when the hosts were exposed to the high-virulence strain, but no response for the dose increase was found when the hosts were exposed to the low-virulence strain. Interestingly, the co-infection resulted in poorer infection success than the single infection with the high-virulence strain. The rainbow trout were more susceptible to the infection than the zebra fish but, in both species, the effects of the doses and the strains were qualitatively similar. We suggest that as an increase in dose can lead to increased host morbidity, both the interstrain interactions and differences in infectivity in different hosts may influence the severity and consequently the evolution of disease. Our results also confirm that the zebra fish is a good laboratory model to study F. columnare infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)