Recovery of Vibrio harveyi from scale drop and muscle necrosis disease in farmed barramundi, Lates calcarifer in Vietnam


  • Emergence of scale drop and muscle necrosis disease in farmed barramundi in Vietnam
  • Coinfections of culturable and unculturable bacteria were uncovered from diseased fish.
  • A pathogenic V. harveyi strain was identified as the main causative agent.
  • Fish infected with V. harveyi exhibited similar clinical signs and unique histological changes of naturally diseased fish.
  • The role of unculturable bacteria needs further investigation.



Symptoms of scale drop and muscle necrosis have been considered as an emerging problem in farmed barramundi (Lates calcarifer) in Vietnam since 2013. Naturally diseased fish exhibited remarkable external clinical signs of scale loss, muscle degradation and eventually died. The objective of this study was to determine the infectious causative agent of the clinically diseased fish collected from barramundi caged culture in central Vietnam in 2015. Histological examination from naturally sick fish revealed signs of severe necrotic muscles with infiltration of massive immune-related cells, severe hemorrhage and blood congestion in the brain, collapsed kidney tubules and epithelial cells sloughing into the lumen. Five different bacterial species were recovered from diseased fish and putatively identified as Vibrio harveyi, Vibrio tubiashii, Tenacibaculum litopenaei, Tenacibaculum sp. and Cytophaga sp. based on homology of 16S rDNA sequences and biochemical characteristics. Experimental infection revealed that only V. harveyi killed the fish with similar clinical signs and histological changes compared to naturally diseased fish. Additionally, several unculturable bacteria including T. maritimum were also uncovered from DNA extracted from necrotic muscles by species-specific PCR and 16S rDNA clone library sequencing, but their roles in disease manifestation need further investigation.


Barramundi; Scale drop; Muscle necrosis; Vibrio harveyi; Unculturable bacteria



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