DAO 73:123-130 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/dao073123

Viral nerve necrosis in hatchery-produced fry of Asian seabass Lates calcarifer: sequential microscopic analysis of histopathology

I. S. Azad1,2,*, M. S. Shekhar1, A. R. Thirunavukkarasu1, K. P. Jithendran1

1Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA), 75 Santhome High Road, RA Puram, Chennai 600 028, India
2Present address: Aquaculture, Fisheries and Marine Environment Department, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, PO Box 1638, Salmiya 22017, Kuwait

ABSTRACT: We studied the natural progression of viral nerve necrosis (VNN) in larvae of Asian seabass Lates calcarifer Bloch from 0 to 40 days post-hatch (dph). The hatchlings were reared in the vicinity of a confirmed nodavirus-affected older batch. Using light and electron microscopy (EM), we made a sequential analysis of histopathological manifestations in nerve tissue and other organs. There were no changes from the day of hatching until 4 dph. Larvae at 4 dph had viral particles in the intramuscular spaces underlying the skin, but the nerve cells of the brain were normal. The first signs of necrosis of the brain cells were observed at 6 dph. EM observations revealed characteristic membrane-bound viral particles measuring 30 nm in the cytoplasm of nerve cells of the brain, spinal cord and retina. Histological samples of fry examined when group mortalities reached 20 to 35% revealed highly vacuolated brains, empty nerve cell cytoplasm and viral particles in the intercellular spaces. Viral particles occurred extensively in the intramuscular spaces and the epidermal layers. These observations were corroborated by positive immunostaining of the virus-rich intramuscular spaces. EM studies also revealed progressive necrotic changes in the cells harboring the virus. Results emphasize the need to maintain hygiene in the hatchery environment and to develop strategies for prevention of disease spread among cohabiting seabass and other susceptible fish larvae. Intramuscular localization of the nodavirus in both preclinical healthy-looking and post-clinical moribund larvae suggests that virus neutralization strategies during larval development could be effective in controlling VNN-associated mortalities.

KEY WORDS: Viral nerve necrosis · Histopathology · Immunofluorescence · Electron microscopy · Asian seabass · Lates calcarifer · VER

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