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Emerging Dreadful Ulcer Disease in Threatened Murrel,

Channa aurantimaculata
Aeromonas hydrophila, Channa aurantimaculata, ulcer.
087-093| JRAS | 2014 | Vol 2 | No 1
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Journal of Research in Animal Sciences
An International Scientific
Research Journal
Kavitha K, Haniffa MA*,
Abdul Kader Mydeen KP
and Jeya Sheela P.

Centre for Aquaculture
Research and Extension
(CARE), St. Xaviers
College (Autonomous),
Palayamkottai, Tamilnadu,

Corresponding author:
Haniffa MA.


Web Address:
Received: 18 March 2014 Accepted: 28 March 2014 Published: 02 May 2014
Article Citation:
Kavitha K, Haniffa MA, Abdul Kader Mydeen KP and Jeya Sheela P.
Emerging Dreadful Ulcer Disease in Threatened Murrel, Channa aurantimaculata.
Journal of Research in Animal Sciences (2014) 2(1): 087-093
An International Scientific Research Journal
Original Research
Journal of Research in Animal Sciences






Like other captive animals, aquarium fish are vulnerable to a range of
diseases. Among the bacterial pathogens, Aeromonas hydrophila act as secondary
infectious agent and causes diseases under stress. The present study is attempted to
evaluate the microbiological and haematological changes in infected ornamental fish
Channa - C. aurantimaculata collected from the wild. The highest microbial load of
cfu g
was observed in skin whereas the lowest load of

cfu g

was found in the heart. From the microbial investigation, A. hydrophila has been
isolated from different organs indicating its predominant presence. Considering
the haematological indices, increased levels of WBC (5.50.3, 10
/ml), MCV
(172.10.9, fl), Lymphocytes (62.30.5, %) were observed in the infected fish
compared to control fish imparting the involvement of non-specific immune response.

ISSN - Print: 2319 - 1589; Online: 2319 - 1597

Murrels constitute the most commonly prevailing
air-breathing freshwater fishes and are the highly desired
food fish in south-east Asian countries due to their taste,
flavor, fewer intramuscular spines, salutary and
recuperative properties. Murrels belong to the family of
Channidae which consists of about 28 - 30 Channa
species in the global scenario and 8 10 species in India.
C. striatus, C.marulius, C. punctatus, C. micropeltes,
C. gachua and C. diplogramma are high value food fish
of Channa. Ornamental Channa sp. includes C. bleheri,
C. orientalis, C. barca, C. aurantimaculata, C. asiatica
and C. stewarti (Haniffa et al., 2004).
C. aurantimaculata commonly called Golden
Cobra Snakehead or Orangespot Snakehead is native to
the Brahmaputra River basin in Assam and Arunachal
Pradesh of northeastern India (Channa aurantimaculata
Orange-spotted Snakehead Seriously Fish. 2014.).
This fish has brown markings along its back and sides
characterized with blue veins on the top of their head.
The rest of the body is golden in colour and blotched
with blue (Golden Cobra Snakehead Channa
aurantimaculata, 2013.).
The ornamental fish industry encountered
productivity escalation over the past two decades in
domestic as well as in international market. Being
ornamental, they are forced to remain under crowded
conditions and hence are prone to various infectious
diseases. There is no scientific record regarding the
etiology in India. The lacunae pose serious threat in the
ornamental fish trade during larviculture, breeding,
marketing and export processes.
Murrels are widely affected by Epizootic
Ulcerative Syndrome (EUS) and experience huge loss in
capture and culture fisheries. The principal infectious
agent belongs to the fungal species of Aphanomyces
A. invadans (Mohan and Shankar, 1995) whereas, the
opportunistic bacterial infectious agent is found to be
Aeromonas hydrophila (Karunasagar et al., 1995) which
seize the blood stream and cause edema resulting
ephemerality (Pal and Pradhan, 1990). But till date, there
is no report of EUS or ulcer diseases in the ornamental
fish C. aurantimaculata, and hence this study is
The present study deals with the isolation and
identification of pathogenic microbes and pathogenic
influence on hematology of infected C. aurantimaculata,
which is threatened as per International Union for
Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

C. aurantimaculata (weight 1456g) were
collected from Brahmaputra river (3023N 820E),
Assam during the month of August 2011. Individuals
which showed ulcerative symptoms externally on skin,
lower jaw and tail (fig. 1-4) were separated from the
Clinical examinations were done according to
Austin and Austin (2007). Fish were ethically handled
and samples were taken from skin, liver, spleen, kidney,
heart and gills of infected fish under aseptic precautions.
Hematological indices viz., Hemoglobin (Hb), Packed
Cell Volume (PCV), Red Blood Corpuscles (RBCs),
White Blood Corpuscles (WBCs), Differential Count
(DC) - percentage of neutrophils (NEU), eosinophils
(EOS), lymphocytes (LYM), monocytes (MON), Mean
Corpuscular Volume (MCV), Mean Corpuscular
Hemoglobin (MCH) and Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin
Concentration (MCHC) were calculated using standard
formulae (Campbell, 2004).

Some of the symptoms noticed in naturally
infected C. aurantimaculata were skin ulcers or sores on
the dorso-ventral surface of the body, edema of the fins
and the vent, and anorexia. The ulcers are said to have a
characteristic "punched out" appearance, i.e., white area
with a reddish centre turning into complete red area,
Kavitha et al., 2014
088 Journal of Research in Animal Sciences (2014) 2(1): 087-093
which later increased in size and merged as the disease
progresses. It further resulted in external hemorrhages,
distended abdomens and protruding eyes leading to death
of the fish due to severity of the disease.
Highest microbial load of 7.40.810
cfu g
was observed in skin followed by gills (5.30.610
) whereas the lowest value of 1.20.710
cfu g
recorded in heart (table-1). While isolated bacteria were
identified, A. hydrophila was found as the dominant one
(table-2). Dominant presence of A. hydrophila in the
EUS affected C. striatus was reported by Thampuran
et al. (1995). According to Das (1997), EUS affected
fishes all over the world recorded a wide range of
pathogenic bacterium A. hydrophila as the most
prevalent whereas Vibrio sp., Pseudomonas sp. and
Salmonella sp. were isolated from the ulcerated area and
the internal organs such as muscle, liver, intestine and
Bacterial disease is the widely noticed issue of
aquarium fishes, especially of gram-negative bacteria.
The majority of bacterial fish pathogens are natural
inhabitants and normal commensalism of the aquatic
system, but are opportunistic pathogens generally
occurring secondary to extrinsic stressors including
shipping, crowding, mechanical injury due to rough
handling, poor water quality (insufficient aeration, pH,
water hardness, temperature and ammonia poisoning)
Kavitha et al., 2014
Journal of Research in Animal Sciences (2014) 2(1): 087-093 089
Fig 2: External Hemorrhage and tail rot Fig 1: Deep Ulceration of lower jaw
Fig 3: Skin ulceration Fig 4: Dermal ulceration of lower jaw
S. No. Sample Colony Forming Unit (cfu g
1. Skin 7.40.810

2. Liver 3.30.910

3. Spleen 2.20.710

4. Kidney 1.50.810

5. Heart 1.20.710

6. Gills 5.30.610

Table 1:Total Heterotrophic count in different organs
of diseased C. aurantimaculata

and malnutrition may predispose an ornamental fish to
bacterial disease. Reduced volume of water and
overcrowded environment in ornamental fish tanks lead
to easy spreading of diseases resulting in mortality of
most of the fishes in a single tank. Inappropriate nitrogen
cycle, unsuitable aquatic plants/weeds and baleful
invertebrates can add to the stresses on aquarium fishes
(Lewbart, 2001).
In EUS affected murrels captured from the wild,
different pathogenic organisms including fungi,
A. invadans (Chinabut, 1995), bacteria, A. hydrophila,
Vibrio sp., (Pal and Pradhan, 1990) and virus (Frerichs,
1995) have been detected. Among the potential fish
pathogens identified, Aeromonas and Vibrio species pose
the most significant threats to ornamental fishes.
A. hydrophila causes a variety of non-specific clinical
signs including external hemorrhages of the skin and
fins, dermal ulcerations, abdominal distention,
exophthalmia and septicemia. Other bacterial pathogens
include A. salmonicida, Pseudomonas sp. and
Salmonella sp., Flavobacterium columnare,
Mycobacterium sp., such as M. marinum, M. fortuitum
and M. piscium (Common Infectious Diseases of
Ornamental Fish, 2013.)
Similarly, Manohar (2005) has also reported the
dominance of A. hydrophila in the infected C. carpio.
Motile group of Aeromonads have been coupled with
lesions on dorso-ventral surfaces of fishes infected with
EUS (Llobrera and Gacutan, 1987; Lio-Po et al., 1992).
The predominance of A. hydrophila in EUS affected fish
has also been reported previously by Kumar et al. (1990)
in India; Tonguthai (1985) in Thailand, Wong and Leong
(1987) in Malaysia, Dana (1987) in Indonesia; Roberts,
1997 in Myanamar and Balasurya (1987) in Srilanka.
Lio-Po et al. (1992) reported that bacterial and fungal
pathogens were noted to be related with EUS affected
snakehead C. striatus and 80% of the total isolates were
A. hydrophila.
Smith et al. (2012) categorized the different
groups of bacterial pathogens in the aquarium water
where goldfish and Chinese algae eaters thrived using
molecular approaches and identified the presence of 30
phyla of pathogenic microbes with Proteobacteria (52%),
Bacteroidetes (18%) and Planctomycetes (6%),
representing the top three phyla.
Infected C. aurantimaculata showed a gradual
decrease in Hb (10.2 8.6, g/dl), PCV (41.8-37.5, %),
MCH (35.5 24.9, pg), MCHC (31.6-23.4, g/dl), RBC
(3.2-2.5, 10
/ml) which were significantly lower
(P>0.05) than that of the control fish (C). MCV (144.4-
172.1, fl), WBCs (4.0-5.5, 10
/ml), lymphocytes (41.6-
62.3, %), monocytes (3.6-7.5, %) and eosinophils (1.5-
4.0, %) of infected C. aurantimaculata (T) showed a
significant increase when compared to that of control
fish (table-3).
The swelling of the RBCs in combination with
poor Hb mobilization from the spleen to other
hemopoeitic organs resulted in decreased Hb and RBC
Kavitha et al., 2014
S.No. Isolated pathogens Total (%) Distribution of pathogens (%)
1. Aeromonas hydrophila 56 8.0 3.0 2.0 1.0 1.0 71.0
2. Staphylococcus aureus 2.5 1.0 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 5.5
3. Pseudomonas aeruginosa 7.5 2.5 1.5 1.0 0.5 0.5 13.5
4. Escherichia coli 3.5 2.0 1.0 0.6 0.5 0.4 8.0
5. Salmonella salmonicida 1.0 0.3 - 0.7 - - 2.0
Table 2: Distribution of pathogens in infected C. aurantimaculata
090 Journal of Research in Animal Sciences (2014) 2(1): 087-093
levels due to hypochromic microcytic anemia of the fish
infected with A. hydrophila (Scott and Rogers, 1981).
Similarly, decreased levels of RBCs and PCV were
noticed in Red Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Carp, Nile
Tilapia infected by Vibrio anguillarum (Harbell et al.
(1979), A. sobria and A. cavia (Rehulka, 2002);
A. hydrophila (Harikrishnan et al., 2003), Streptococcus
iniae (Chen et al., 2004) respectively.
The pearl spot fish E. suratensis when affected
by EUS becomes anemic and in turn results in the
significant reduction of RBC, Hb and PCV levels
(Pathiratne and Rajapakshe, 1998). The MCHC, as a
good indicator of RBC swelling/decrease in Hb synthesis
(Wepener et al., 1992). The increased level of
lymphocytes obtained in our study is supported by
Morgan et al. (1997) in infected brown trout and rainbow

The predominant presence of A. hydrophila in
the naturally infected C. aurantimaculata insisted its
principal role in the ulcer disease. However, further
investigation regarding fungal pathology is required. The
present study is significant that it is the first report on the
occurrence of ulcer disease in the ornamental fish,
C. aurantimaculata.

We acknowledge the financial assistance
received from Indian Council of Agricultural Research
National Agricultural Innovation Project (ICAR-NAIP
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Blood Parameters Control fish (C) Infected Fish (T)
RBC (10
/ml) 3.200.1 2.50.2
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Hb (g/dl) 10.200.4 8.60.4
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Eosinophils % 1.500.2 4.00.2
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Journal of Research in Animal Sciences (2014) 2(1): 087-093 093