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Biofilm Formation By The Fish Pathogen Flavobacterium Columnare: Development And Parameters Affecting Surface Attachment

Wenlong Cai, Leonardo De La Fuente, Covadonga R. Arias

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ABSTRACT Flavobacterium columnare is a bacterial fish pathogen that affects many freshwater species worldwide. The natural reservoir of this pathogen is unknown, but its resilience in closed aquaculture systems posits biofilm as the source of contagion for farmed fish. The objectives of this study were (i) to characterize the dynamics of biofilm formation and morphology under static and flow conditions and (ii) to evaluate the effects of temperature, pH, salinity, hardness, and carbohydrates on biofilm formation. Nineteen F. columnare strains, including representatives of all of the defined genetic groups (genomovars), were compared in this study. The structure of biofilm was characterized by light microscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy. F. columnare was able to attach to and colonize inert surfaces by producing biofilm. Surface colonization started within 6 h postinoculation, and microcolonies were observed within 24 h. Extracellular polysaccharide substances and water channels were observed in mature biofilms (24 to 48 h). A similar time course was observed when F. columnare formed biofilm in microfluidic chambers under flow conditions. The virulence potential of biofilm was confirmed by cutaneous inoculation of channel catfish fingerlings with mature biofilm. Several physicochemical parameters modulate attachment to surfaces, with the largest influence being exerted by hardness, salinity, and the presence of mannose. Maintenance of hardness and salinity values within certain ranges could prevent biofilm formation by F. columnare in aquaculture systems.