Zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a Screen for Attenuation of Lancefield Group C Streptococci and a Model for Streptococcal Pathogenesis

L. B. Borst, S. K. Patterson, S. Lanka, M. M. Suyemoto, C. W. Maddox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Group C streptococci are highly contagious pyogenic bacteria responsible for respiratory tract, lymph node, urogenital tract, and wound infections. Wild-type strains of Streptococcus equisspequi (S. equi) and Streptococcus equisspzooepidemicus (S. zoo) as well as a commercially available modified live vaccine strain of S. equi were evaluated for virulence in zebrafish. Survival times, histologic lesions, and relative gene expression were compared among groups. Based on the intramuscular route of infection, significantly shorter survival times were observed in fish infected with wild-type strain when compared to modified live vaccine and S. zoo strains. Histologically, S. zoo-infected fish demonstrated a marked increase in inflammatory infiltrates (predominantly macrophages) at the site of infection, as well as increased cellularity in the spleen and renal interstitium. In contrast, minimal cellular immune response was observed in S. equi-injected fish with local tissue necrosis and edema predominating. Based on whole comparative genomic hybridization, increased transcription of positive acute-phase proteins, coagulation factors, and antimicrobial peptides were observed in S. equi-injected fish relative to S. zoo-injected fish, while mediators of cellular inflammation, including CXC chemokines and granulin, were upregulated in S. zoo-injected fish relative to S. equi-injected fish. In a screen of 11 clinical isolates, S. equi strains with a single nucleotide deletion in the upstream region of szp, a known virulence factor of streptococci, were found to be significantly attenuated in zebrafish. These collective findings underscore the value of the zebrafish as a model of streptococcal pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-467
Number of pages11
JournalVeterinary pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Danio rerio
  • animal model
  • strangles
  • streptococcus
  • zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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