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To rapidly determine the causative agent of mass death in Lateolabrax japonicus in Zhelin Bay of Guangdong Province in China in April 2004.Thirty-six strains, numbered sequentially from RP01 to RP36, were isolated from six diseased fish. All of the strains were identified as being of the same vibrio species according to the results of universal primer PCR combined with DGGE (UPPCR-DGGE). RP30 was one of these strains that was randomly selected and analysed by using a morphological, physiological and biochemical plate, Biolog GN2 Microplate System and API 20E system. Furthermore, RP30′ 16S rDNA was sequenced and aligned in Genbank. Its virulence to Lateolabrax japonicus (Cuvier in Cuvier and Valenciennes) was also tested. RP30 is most closely related to four Vibrio ponticus strains (99·3% similarity). LD50s were 2·5 (×103 CFU per fish for intraperitoneal inoculation (IP) and 3·2 (×103 CFU per fish for intramuscular inoculation (IM), respectively.The investigated pathogenic agent of Lateolabrax japonicus (Cuvier in Cuvier and Valenciennes) was V. ponticus.UPPCR-DGGE is very helpful in epidemiologic investigation. Interestingly, this is the first report that V. ponticus infects cultured marine fish. DGGE was likewise first introduced to epidemiologic investigation of fish disease.