Oral vaccination of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) against francisellosis elevates specific antibody titres in serum and mucus
Although Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) is a well-established aquaculture species globally, there are a limited number of commercial vaccines available or are used for this species. The majority of diseases affecting farmed tilapia are bacterial, with antibiotics frequently used to treat fish. The current study was performed to optimise the use of mucosal vaccines for tilapia by adapting an existing bacterin vaccine against Francisella noatunensis subsp. orientalis (Fno) as a proof of concept. This vaccine has previously provided excellent protection by injection, however, the preference for tilapia farmers would be to vaccinate fish by immersion or orally, due to the lower cost and ease of application. These vaccination routes, however, are often less efficacious probably due to the lack of adjuvants in immersion and oral vaccines. The aims of this study, therefore, were to optimise the formulation and dose of the Fno vaccine with mucosal adjuvants for oral and immersion delivery. Tilapia fry (av. 6 g) were given three concentrations (high, medium, low; i.e. 1×109, 1×108 and 1×107 CFU mL-1) of antigen combined with the oral adjuvant by oral gavage, to optimise the dose needed to induce an immune response to Fno, and the immune response obtained compared with fish vaccinated by immersion (with and without an immersion adjuvant). Fry were boosted by the same route at 420 degree days (DD), and samples (serum, mucus ) taken at 840 DD for specific antibody responses measured by ELISA and western blotting. Specific IgM titres were significantly elevated in serum and mucus of fish given the high dose adjuvanted vaccine by gavage. In addition, by western blotting with serum, a significant immunogenic reaction was evident between 20 and 37 kDa in the fish given the high dose oral vaccine by gavage. As protection against Fno provided by the injection vaccine was correlated with specific antibody responses these findings suggest the oral vaccine also has potential to provide protection. Further studies are needed to optimise delivery of the vaccine via feed.