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Pathogenic bacteria prevalence in cultured Nile tilapia in Southwest Mexico: A real-time PCR analysis.

Journal of Fish Diseases 2024 January 26
The present study investigates molecular-based PCR techniques to estimate the prevalence of fish pathogens in southwest Mexico where recurrent mortality in the tilapia cultures has been observed. Sample of internal organs and lesions of Nile tilapia were taken and analysed in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022 to detect bacterial pathogens using PCR. No samples were taken in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The real-time PCR conditions were optimized to allow a qualitative reliable detection of the bacteria from fixed fish tissue. A total of 599 pond- and cage-cultured tilapia from the southwestern Mexican Pacific (Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas states) were analysed. In this tropical region, during 2018 and 2019 water temperatures of the tilapia cultures were generally with the optimal range to grow Nile tilapia, although extreme values were recorded on some farms. Most of the tilapia sampled were apparently healthy. No Francisella sp. was detected in any sample, and Staphylococcus sp. was the most prevalent (from 0% to 64%) bacteria from the three states over time. Low prevalence of Aeromonas sp. was found, from 0% to 4.3%, although the fish pathogen Aeromonas dhakensis was not detected. Sterptococcus iniae was only detected in Chiapas in 2019 at a low prevalence (1.4%), while the major tilapia pathogen S. agalactiae was detected at a high prevalence (from 0% to 59%) in the three Mexican states. This is the first detection of these pathogenic bacteria in rural farms using real-time PCR and constitutes a great risk for tilapia aquaculture in Mexico, as well as a potential dispersion of these pathogens to other aquaculture areas.

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