Attention has been drawn to phage therapy as an alternative approach for controlling pathogenic bacteria such as Flavobacterium psychrophilum in salmonid aquaculture, which can give rise to high mortalities, especially in rainbow trout fry. Recently, phages have been isolated with a broad host range and a strong lytic potential against pathogenic F. psychrophilum under experimental conditions. However, little is known about the fate of phages at environmental conditions. Here, we quantified the dispersal and fate of F. psychrophilum phages and hosts in rainbow trout fry after intraperitoneal injection. Both phages and bacteria were isolated from the fish organs for up to 10 days after injection, and coinjection with both bacteria and phages resulted in a longer persistence of the phage in the fish organs, than when the fish had been injected with the phages only. The occurrence of both phage and bacterium was most prevalent in the kidney and spleen, with only minor occurrence in the brain. The experiment showed that injected phages were rapidly spread in the internal organs of the fish, also in the absence of bacteria. Parallel examination of the regulation of bacteriophage infectivity in controlled laboratory experiments at various environmental conditions showed that pH had only minor effects on long-term (3 months) phage infectivity within a pH range of 4.5 to 7.5, whereas phage infectivity was immediately lost at pH 3. In the absence of host cells, phage infectivity decreased by a factor of 10,000 over 55 days in untreated pond water, while the sterilization and removal of particles caused a 100-fold increase in phage survival relative to the control. In addition, F. psychrophilum-specific phages maintained their infectivity for ∼2 months in glycerol at −80°C, whereas infectivity decreased by a factor 10 when kept in a buffer at 20°C. Only a very small degradation in infectivity was seen when bacteriophages were added and dried on fish feed pellets. Together, these results indicate that application of bacteriophages represents a promising approach for the control of F. psychrophilum infections in trout and suggest fish feed as a potential delivery method.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2013, Vol 79, Issue 16, p. 4853-4861