DAO 75:13-22 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/dao075013

Experimental infection of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar pre-smolts by i.p. injection with new Irish and Norwegian salmonid alphavirus (SAV) isolates: a comparative study

K. E. Christie1, D. A. Graham2,*, M. F. McLoughlin3, S. Villoing1, D. Todd2, D. Knappskog1

1Intervet Norbio, Thormohlensgt. 55, 5008, Bergen, Norway
2Veterinary Sciences Division, Stoney Road, Stormont, Belfast BT4 3SD, UK
3Aquatic Veterinary Services, 35 Cherryvalley Park, Belfast BT5 6PN, UK
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L. pre-smolts were experimentally infected with 2 different isolates of salmonid alphavirus (SAV): a Subtype 1 isolate from Ireland and a Subtype 3 isolate from Norway. Sequential samples of tissue and blood were collected during a period of 20 wk post injection and subjected to virus isolation from kidney tissue and serum, detection of viral nucleic acid in heart tissue and serum by real-time RT-PCR, detection of specific antibodies by virus neutralisation assay, and histopathological examination. Successful reproduction of pancreas disease (PD) was obtained by intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of both isolates. No mortality was observed post infection in either group, but typical PD histopathological lesions in heart and pancreas tissue were observed with both isolates. The prevalence and severity of lesions in the pancreas, heart, skeletal muscle and brain were similar in both groups with only subtle differences recorded. Re-isolation of virus from kidney tissue was performed at 7 and 14 d post infection (d p.i.) only and was positive for both test groups at both sampling points. Isolation of virus from sera from both groups was positive at 4 to 14 d p.i., but was negative at later sampling points when antibody production had begun. Virus may be detected only during the acute phase using both methods. Specific neutralising antibodies could be detected for both test groups from Day 21 p.i. until the end of the experiment at 140 d p.i. Peak antibody titres were seen 70 d p.i. Using real-time RT-PCR, pancreas disease virus (PDV)-specific RNA was detected frequently in serum samples up to 14 d p.i. and occasionally thereafter. In contrast, viral RNA could still be detected in the heart tissue of fish from both groups for at least 140 d p.i.


KEY WORDS: Salmonid alphavirus · Pancreas disease · Experimental infection · RT-PCR · Serology · Virology · Subtype 1 · Subtype 3


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