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Front. Microbiol. | doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.02447

Microbial production of the off-flavour geosmin in tilapia production in Brazilian water reservoirs: Importance of bacteria in the intestine and other fish-associated environments

Mie B. Lukassen1, Nadieh de Jonge1, Sabine M. Bjerregaard1,  Raju Podduturi2,  Niels O. Jørgensen2, Mikael A. Petersen2,  Gianmarco S. David3,  Reinaldo J. Silva4 and  Jeppe L. Nielsen1*
  • 1Aalborg University, Denmark
  • 2University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 3Sao Paulo Agency of Agribusiness and Technology (APTA), Brazil
  • 4São Paulo State University, Brazil

Aim: To determine major sources of microbially produced geosmin in the commercially important aquaculture fish species tilapia.
Methods and results: Abundance and composition of geosmin-producing bacteria in water and fish biosphere (intestine, digesta, and fins) of Nile tilapia (Oreachromis niloticus) raised in net cages in Brazilian freshwater farms were examined. By combining qPCR of the geosmin synthase geoA gene and 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing to identify potential geosmin-producing organisms, we observed that the proportion and composition of geosmin producers appeared to be rather similar in the water, digesta, intestinal mucous, and on skin, making up about 0.1- 0.2 % of the total bacterial densities. A high proportion of Cyanobacteria and other putative geosmin producers affiliated to the Actinomycetales were identified in the intestinal mucous layer. The main uptake site for geosmin in fish is traditionally assumed to be through the gill surface, but the present results suggest that uptake by the intestinal tract may represent a major source of geosmin uptake in fish.
Conclusions: The high abundance of geosmin-producing bacteria in the intestinal mucous layer and digesta may indicate that the digestive system in fish is an important, but hitherto overlooked, source of geosmin and likely other off-flavours in fish.
Significance and impact of Study: Tainting of fish by microbially produced off-flavours spoils fish quality and lowers consumer preferences for aquaculture-produced freshwater fish. Our results highlight the potential for the application of probiotic microorganisms for management of the intestinal microflora to improve the fish quality.

Keywords: geosmin, GeoA, Off-flavour, Nile tilapia, Gastrointestinal Tract, Aquaculture

Received: 14 Jun 2019; Accepted: 11 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Lukassen, de Jonge, Bjerregaard, Podduturi, Jørgensen, Petersen, David, Silva and Nielsen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Jeppe L. Nielsen, Aalborg University, Aalborg, 9100, Denmark,