DAO prepress abstract  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03378

Viral encephalopathy and retinopathy disease in Epinephelus marginatus from the Balearic Islands Marine Protected Areas

Jose Maria Valencia, Amalia Grau, Tobia Pretto, Joan Pons, Jose Antonio Jurado-Rivera, Jose Aurelio Castro, Anna Toffan, Gaetano Catanese*

*Email: gcatanese@dgpesca.caib.es

ABSTRACT: This is the first description of a Betanodavirus infection in the dusky grouper Epinephelus marginatus within the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) of the Balearic Islands. Histopathology techniques were employed to describe neurological lesions in infected fish. Abnormal swimming, mortality, and neurological lesions were detected in all analysed grouper individuals. Virus particles were observed by means of transmission electron microscopy. Reverse transcription of RNA1 and RNA2 followed by cDNA amplification and sequencing allowed viral classification. Phylogenetic analysis showed the isolates from wild E. marginatus of Balearic Islands MPAs to be closely related to Dicentrarchus labrax and Mullus barbatus strains from Cyprus and Italy. Although vertical transmission from infected spawners has been described as the major route for nodavirus infection, we point out in this work that horizontal transmission among sub-clinical fishes after migration or commercial import for aquaculture production could play a major role in the spreading of the disease in MPAs.