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Image: Mostphotos/Jason Baxter

Debra Milton Lab

Research group Our group studies virulence and survival of the fish bacteria Vibrio anguillarum.

The bacteria Vibrio anguillarum constitutes part of the normal microflora of the aquatic environment. When the health of marine fish is compromised or when the mucosal surfaces of the fish are damaged, V. anguillarum has an opportunity to cause vibriosis, a terminal hemorrhagic septicaemia. Within the fish farming industry world-wide, V. anguillarum infections can lead to large economic losses.

The fish skin is a possible bacterial portal of entry into the animal. Bacteria must migrate through the outer mucus layer and attach to the epithelial skin tissues to colonize the skin surface. Vibrio anguillarum evades the phagocytic capacity of the epithelial cells to colonize the skin surface of fish. Cell-cell communication is required by bacteria to coordinate, as a population, complex activities, such as colonization of the fish skin or protein secretion via the type VI secretion system. These mechanisms allow bacteria to alter their morphology and physiology quickly to adapt to environmental changes and to cause disease in fish.

Our research has strived to understand how these mechanisms affect the survival of V. anguillarum in seawater and in the fish host. A better understanding of how bacteria interact with their environment and hosts will aid the development of therapeutics to prevent disease in the fish farming industry.

Head of research


Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Molecular Biology

Research area

Infection biology
Latest update: 2022-12-20