The Case for Modeling Human Infection in Zebrafish

Trends Microbiol. 2020 Jan;28(1):10-18. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2019.08.005. Epub 2019 Oct 8.


Zebrafish (Danio rerio) larvae are widely recognized for studying host-pathogen interactions in vivo because of their optical transparency, genetic manipulability, and translational potential. The development of the zebrafish immune system is well understood, thereby use of larvae enables investigation solely in the context of innate immunity. As a result, infection of zebrafish with natural fish pathogens including Mycobacterium marinum has significantly advanced our understanding of bacterial pathogenesis and vertebrate host defense. However, new work using a variety of human pathogens (bacterial, viral, and fungal) has illuminated the versatility of the zebrafish infection model, revealing unexpected and important concepts underlying infectious disease. We propose that this knowledge can inform studies in higher animal models and help to develop treatments to combat human infection.

Keywords: antibiotic resistance; bacterial cell biology; cell-autonomous immunity; cellular microbiology; host defense; pathogenesis; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Communicable Diseases*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions* / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Larva / immunology
  • Larva / microbiology
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • Mycobacterium marinum / immunology
  • Zebrafish*