Vaccine development is important for sustainable fish farming and novel vaccines need to be efficacy tested before release to the market. Challenge of fish with the pathogen towards which the vaccine has been produced can be conducted either by external exposure though bathing or cohabitation, or by bypassing the mucosa through injection. The latter approach is often preferred since it is easier to control than the former. However, injection is not a very natural route of infection, and the bypass of the mucosa may result in a different efficacy profile of experimental fish compared to farmed fish, for which the vaccines are targeted.
The zebrafish is by now a well established practical vertebrate model species due in part to its size and ease of maintenance and genetic manipulation. Here we use zebrafish as a model to visualize and compare the development of infection of Vibrio anguillarum on and in the fish following injection or bathing.
Injection of 103 bacteria per fish resulted in approximately 50% mortality by day 4 post-injection. Similar mortality levels were reached in the other group by bathing in 1.25 × 109 bacteria for 1 min. The spreading of bacteria was followed for the first 24 h after injection/bathing by immunohistochemistry and optical projection tomography.
The tissues and organs where bacteria were detected differed significantly as a result of time as well as treatment. In the bath group, bacteria were initially found on external surfaces including gut. After 24 h V. anguillarum still persisted in gut but had now also spread to the blood. In the injection group bacteria were found in the blood throughout all sampling times, as well as in the hypodermis and body cavity at most sampling times.