Document Type


Publication Date



Ocean Science and Engineering


The fish external microbiota competitively excludes primary pathogens and prevents the proliferation of opportunists. A shift from healthy microbiota composition, known as dysbiosis, may be triggered by environmental stressors and increases host susceptibility to disease. The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill was a significant stressor event in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite anecdotal reports of skin lesions on fishes following the oil spill, little information is available on the impact of dispersed oil on the fish external microbiota. In this study, juvenile red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) were exposed to a chemically enhanced water-accommodated fraction (CEWAF) of Corexit 9500/DWH oil (CEWAF) and/or the bacterial pathogen Vibrio anguillarum in treatments designed to detect changes in and recovery of the external microbiota. In fish chronically exposed to CEWAF, immunoglobulin M (IgM) expression significantly decreased between 2 and 4 weeks of exposure, coinciding with elevated liver total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Dysbiosis was detected on fish chronically exposed to CEWAF compared to seawater controls, and addition of a pathogen challenge altered the final microbiota composition. Dysbiosis was prevented by returning fish to clean seawater for 21 days after 1 week of CEWAF exposure. Four fish exhibited lesions during the trial, all of which were exposed to CEWAF but not all of which were exposed to V. anguillarum. This study indicates that month-long exposure to dispersed oil leads to dysbiosis in the external microbiota. As the microbiota is vital to host health, these effects should be considered when determining the total impacts of pollutants in aquatic ecosystems.

Publication Title

Microbiology Spectrum





Find in your library