Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is a Gram-negative pathogen with emerging nosocomial incidence. Little is known about its pathogenesis and the genomic diversity exhibited by clinical isolates complicates the study of pathogenicity and virulence factors. Here, we present a strategy to identify such factors in new clinical isolates of S. maltophilia, incorporating an adult-zebrafish model of S. maltophilia infection to evaluate relative virulence coupled to 2D difference gel electrophoresis to explore underlying differences in protein expression. In this study we report upon three recent clinical isolates and use the collection strain ATCC13637 as a reference. The adult-zebrafish model shows discrimination capacity, i.e. from very low to very high mortality rates, with clinical symptoms very similar to those observed in natural S. maltophilia infections in fish. Strain virulence correlates with resistance to human serum, in agreement with previous studies in mouse and rat and therefore supporting zebrafish as a replacement model. Despite its clinical origin, the collection strain ATCC13637 showed obvious signs of attenuation in zebrafish, with null mortality. Multilocus-sequence-typing analysis revealed that the most virulent strains, UV74 and M30, exhibit the strongest genetic similitude. Differential proteomic analysis led to the identification of 38 proteins with significantly different abundance in the three clinical strains relative to the reference strain. Orthologs of several of these proteins have been already reported to have a role in pathogenesis, virulence or resistance mechanisms thus supporting our strategy. Proof of concept is further provided by protein Ax21, whose abundance is shown here to be directly proportional to mortality in the zebrafish infection model. Indeed, recent studies have demonstrated that this protein is a quorum-sensing-related virulence factor. © 2013 Ferrer-Navarro et al.