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

Mie B. Lukassen, Nadieh de Jonge, Sabine M. Bjerregaard, Raju Podduturi, Niels O.G. Jørgensen, Mikael A. Petersen, Gianmarco S. David, Reinaldo J. da Silva, Jeppe L. Nielsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


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. Conclusion: 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-flavors in fish. Significance and Impact of Study: Tainting of fish by microbially produced off-flavors 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. HIGHLIGHTS-Off-flavor producing bacteria are widely abundant in aquaculture.-Off-flavor producers found on skin surface of fish.-Off-flavor producing bacteria accumulate in the digestive system.-Off-flavor producers might release significant amounts of off-flavor during lysis in the gut.-Off-flavor uptake through the digestive system might be quantitatively significant.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2447
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberOCT
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 Lukassen, de Jonge, Bjerregaard, Podduturi, Jørgensen, Petersen, David, da Silva and Nielsen.


  • Aquaculture production
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • GeoA
  • Geosmin
  • Nile tilapia
  • Off-flavor


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