DAO 91:177-188 (2010)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02265

Detection of salmonid alphavirus RNA in wild marine fish: implications for the origins of salmon pancreas disease in aquaculture

M. Snow*, J. Black, I. Matejusova, R. McIntosh, E. Baretto, I. S. Wallace, D. W. Bruno

Marine Scotland, Marine Laboratory, 375 Victoria Road, PO Box 101, Aberdeen AB11 9DB, UK

ABSTRACT: Salmonid alphaviruses (SAVs), which include the aetiological agents of salmon pancreas disease (SPD) in farmed Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L. and sleeping disease (SD) in rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum), are significant viral pathogens of European salmonid aquaculture. SAV is horizontally transmitted and the virus can survive for extended periods in seawater. A lack of convincing evidence for vertical transmission coupled to the fact that the SPD virus (SPDV) occurs in historically infected sites irrespective of fallow period duration suggests that a substantial reservoir of infection exists in the marine environment. We used a highly sensitive real-time PCR (qPCR) assay targeting a region of the SAV nsP1 gene to screen wild marine fish species for the presence of SAV in an attempt to identify such a potential reservoir. Screened fish species were caught in the vicinity of aquaculture activity in an area with a previous history of SAV infection (Shetland Isles, Scotland). SAV RNA was detected in internal organs (kidney and heart) from the flatfish species common dab Limanda limanda, long rough dab Hippoglossoides platessoides, and plaice Pleuronectes platessa. Based on these findings, sampling was extended to an area remote from aquaculture activity (Stonehaven Bay, NE coast of Scotland) from where heart tissues obtained from common dab also tested positive. While no virus could be cultivated from these samples, qPCR detections were shown to be SAV-specific by sequencing of an alternative gene region (E2) to that targeted by the qPCR assay. Analysis of these nucleotide sequences revealed minor differences to those previously obtained from farmed salmon, and subsequent phylogenetic analysis of an E2 dataset demonstrated a subtype V-like sequence.


KEY WORDS: Salmonid alphavirus · SAV · Salmon pancreas disease · SPDV · Real-time PCR · Detection · Wild fish


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Cite this article as: Snow M, Black J, Matejusova I, McIntosh R, Baretto E, Wallace IS, Bruno DW (2010) Detection of salmonid alphavirus RNA in wild marine fish: implications for the origins of salmon pancreas disease in aquaculture. Dis Aquat Org 91:177-188. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02265

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