The work I’ve done in Dr. Webley’s lab this summer revolved around the relationship between epitheliocystis and chlamydia in fish. Epitheliocystis is a disease that affects the skin and gills of fish, and is creating a billion dollar problem for the aquaculture industry. An unknown bacteria causes nodular cysts to grow on the gills, which eventually fuses them causing an inability to breathe and resulting in the fish’s death. This has been an ongoing problem in aquaculture since the 1920’s, but it wasn’t officially named until 1969. Even today there’s still so much we don’t know about the disease including mode of transmission and etiology. What we do know is that through DNA sequencing and histopathology, epitheliocystis is believed to have derived from a Chlamydia-like organism.
The strains of Chlamydia used to test this were Simkania negevensis and Waddlia chondrophila, two strains closely related to epitheliocystis, but Chlamydia is hard to grow and maintain in the lab since it needs a living host to survive. To create an effective model, we used a cell line we know can be infected so we can grow up enough chlamydia for later use in experiments with epitheliocystis. By growing these cell lines up, splitting them to create more, freezing them down for back up, and infecting them with chlamydia, we’re preparing for an in-vivo model using zebrafish where we can study the optimal conditions for transmission, and hopefully start looking for prevention and treatment methods.