Phenotypic, serological and genetic characterization of Flavobacterium psychrophilum strains isolated from salmonids in Chile.
Characterization of 20 Flavobacterium psychrophilum strains isolated from farmed Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout in Chile was done using phenotypic, antigenic and genetic techniques. Experimental infections were also performed to assess the virulence of two representative isolates and of the type strain. Biochemical and physiological analyses showed that Chilean F. psychrophilum strains, regardless of the host species, constitute a phenotypically very homogeneous group matching with previous descriptions of this pathogen. However, serological assays indicated the existence of antigenic heterogeneity with four patterns of serological reactions. The first group contained most (14 of 20) of the F. psychrophilum isolates showing cross-reaction with the antisera obtained against Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout isolates. Group 2 corresponded to four other rainbow trout isolates (1658, 1731, 1762 and 29009) that did not agglutinate with anti-1150 serum. Two minor serological groups were identified for the remaining isolates (Groups 3 and 4). Marked homogeneity was also revealed by genetic studies including 16S rRNA alleles, random amplified polymorphic DNA and REP-PCR showing that a major genetic group of F. psychrophilum may be dominant in disease outbreaks in farms. Restriction fragment length polymorphism of PCR analysis showed that gyrase genotypes B-S or B-R were found in Chilean isolates from rainbow trout and Atlantic salmon, whereas genotype A was not found. Virulence assays using Atlantic salmon indicated no relationship between the degree of pathogenicity and the host origin of the F. psychrophilum strains.