Use of phages to controlVibrio splendidusinfection in the juvenile sea cucumberApostichopus japonicus

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In the present study, we isolated 3 bacteriophages with the ability to control Vibrio splendidus, a bacterium known to cause disease in the juvenile sea cucumber. These bacteriophages were designated as vB_VspS_VS-ABTNL-1 (PVS-1), vB_VspS_VS-ABTNL-2 (PVS-2) and vB_VspS_VS-ABTNL-3 (PVS-3). The ability of the 3 phages to inhibit the growth of V. splendidus VS-ABTNL was tested in vitro using each of the 3 phages individually or in the form of a cocktail of all 3 phages in the proportion of 1:1:1. All treated cultures produced a significant (P < 0.05) inhibition of growth of V. splendidus VS-ABTNL compared with untreated V. splendidus VS-ABTNL with the cocktail being superior to any of the 3 phages used individually. The lytic capability of the 3 phages was subsequently determined with a Spot Assay Technique performed with 4 isolates of V. splendidus, 3 other Vibrio species and 2 environmental isolates. Both PVS-1 and PVS-2 were lytic to all 4 isolates of V. splendidus while PVS-3 only inhibited the growth of 3 of them. V. splendidus VS-ABTNL was more susceptible to phage PVS-2 than the other 2 phages. In an in vivo performance trial, 360 sea cucumbers (23 ± 2 g) were randomly assigned to 1 of 6 treatments. Each treatment was housed in 3 PVC tanks (38 cm × 54 cm × 80 cm) with 20 sea cucumbers per tank. Six diets were prepared including an unsupplemented control diet, antibiotic treatment diet, 3 diets containing 1 of the 3 phages individually and a diet containing a cocktail of all 3 phages. After 60 days of feeding, all sea cucumber were challenged with V. splendidus VS-ABTNL by immersion in sea water containing a bacterial concentration of 6 × 106 CFU/mL for 2 days. The survival rate of sea cucumbers during the next 10 days was 18% for the unsupplemented diet, 82% for the antibiotic treatment, 82% for the phage cocktail, 65% for phage PVS-1, 58% for phage PVS-2 and 50% for phage PVS-3. There were no significant differences in weight gain, ingestion rate or feed conversion among sea cucumber fed the 4 phage treatments compared with those fed the unsupplemented diet (P > 0.05). The levels of nitric oxide synthase and acid phosphatase of sea cucumbers fed phage-containing diets were significantly (P < 0.05) increased compared with those fed the control diet. However, no significant differences (P > 0.05) were detected among the 4 phage-fed treatments. An additional study was conducted in which 60 healthy sea cucumbers (23 ± 2 g) were randomly assigned to a control, an untreated group and a test group to investigate the effects of injecting phages by coelomic injection on the survival rate and enzyme activities in the coelomic fluid of the sea cucumbers. The control was injected with 1 ml of sterilized seawater while the untreated group and the test group were injected with the same volume of V. splendidus-ABTNL culture (3 × 105 CFU/mL). Then, the test group was injected with 1 ml of the 3 phage cocktail (MOI = 10). After 48 h, the activities of lysozyme, acid phosphatase and superoxide dismutase were elevated in the untreated group while the levels of these enzymes in the test group were similar to the blank control. After 10-day observation, the survival rate of the sea cucumber was 100% for the blank control, 80% for the test group and 20% for the negative control. The overall results of this experiment indicate that phage therapy increased the survival of sea cucumber infected with V. splendidus VS-ABTNL. The above results demonstrate that using phages, especially a combination of different phages, may be a feasible way to control Vibrio infection in the sea cucumber industry.

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