DAO 56:11-24 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/dao056011

Emergence and maintenance of infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISAV) in Europe: a new hypothesis

A. Nylund1,*, M. Devold1, H. Plarre1, E. Isdal2, M. Aarseth1

1Department of Fisheries and Department of Marine Biology, University of Bergen, 5020 Bergen, Norway
2Intervet Norbio, 5020 Bergen, Norway

ABSTRACT: The present study describes the use of molecular methods in studying infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISAV), an important pathogen of farmed salmon in Norway, Scotland, the Faeroe Islands, Canada, USA and Chile. The nucleotide sequences of the haemagglutinin gene (HA) from 70 ISAV isolates have been analysed for phylogenetic relationship and the average mutation rate of nucleotide substitutions calculated. The isolates constitute 2 major groups, 1 European and 1 North American group. The isolate from Chile is closely related to the North American isolates. The European isolates can be further divided into 3 separate groups reflecting geographical distribution, time of collection, and transmission connected with farming activity. Based on existing information about infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) and new information emerging from the present study, it is hypothesised that: (1) ISAV is maintained in wild populations of trout and salmon in Europe; (2) it is transmitted between wild hosts mainly during their freshwater spawning phase in rivers; (3) wild salmonids, mainly trout, possibly carry benign wild-type ISAV isolates; (4) a change (mutation) in virulence probably results from deletions of amino acid segments from the highly polymorphic region (HPR) of benign wild-type isolates; (5) ISA emerges in farmed Atlantic salmon when mutated isolates are transmitted from wild salmonids or, following mutation of benign isolates, in farmed salmon after transmission from wild salmonids; (6) farming activity is an important factor in transmission of ISAV between farming sites in addition to transmission of ISAV from wild salmonids to farmed salmon; (7) transmission of ISAV from farmed to wild salmonids probably occurs less frequently than transmission from wild to farmed fish due to lower frequency of susceptible wild individuals; (8) the frequency of new outbreaks of ISA in farmed salmon probably reflects natural variation in the prevalence of ISAV in wild populations of salmonids.

KEY WORDS: Infectious salmon anaemia virus · ISAV · Maintenance · Reservoir · Epizootics

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