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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 70:183-192 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/dao070183

Virus-like particles associated with heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI)

K. Watanabe1, M. Karlsen1, M. Devold1, E. Isdal2, A. Litlabø3, A. Nylund1,*

1Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Thormøhlensgt 55, 5020 Bergen, Norway
2Intervet Norbio, Thormøhlensgt 55, 5020 Bergen, Norway
3Havbruksinstituttet AS, Thormøhlensgt 55, 5008 Bergen, Norway
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: The first cases of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI), in Atlantic salmon Salmo salar were registered in 1999 in the Hitra/Frøya area of Norway. The disease has since spread south to Rogaland, i.e. the southernmost county with salmon farming in Norway. The disease outbreaks usually start 5 to 9 mo after release into seawater but may occur as early as 2 wk after sea release. The present study focuses on possible pathogens associated with HSMI. It was not possible to find any parasites or bacteria that could explain HSMI, and none of the well-known viruses (infectious salmon anaemia virus, Norwegian salmonid alphavirus, infectious pancreatic necrosis virus, Atlantic salmonid paramyxovirus) were consistently present. Use of transmission electron microscopy showed the presence of epitheliocystis agent in 3 of 4 farms included in this study, and several virus-like particles. Type I and Type II virus particles, previously described for salmon suffering from haemorrhagic smolt syndrome (HSS), and erythrocytic inclusion body syndrome (EIBS) virus were consistently present in salmon suffering from HSMI in all 4 farms included in this study. The 2 HSS viruses (Type I and Type II) were also cultured in Atlantic salmon kidney (ASK) cells from salmon suffering from HSMI. However, a causal relationship between the observed virus particles and HSMI remains to be demonstrated.

KEY WORDS: HSMI · Possible agents · Viruses

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