, Volume 152, Issue 1, pp 151-179
Date: 28 Aug 2006

Transmission of infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISAV) in farmed populations of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar )

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In the present study, 24 smolt production sites were screened for the presence of infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISAV) with the help of a specific real-time RT PCR assay, and 22 of these sites had smolts that were positive. If these smolt production sites are representative for the prevalence of ISAV in Norwegian smolts, then most marine production sites must be considered to be positive for ISAV. In addition, 92 European ISAV isolates have been genotyped based on the hemagglutinin-esterase gene (HE), and their distribution pattern was analysed. This pattern has been coupled to information about the origin of smolt, eggs, and broodfish in those cases where it has been possible to obtain such information, and with information about ISAV in neighbouring farms. The pattern suggests that an important transmission route for the ISAV could be that the salmon farming industry in Norway is circulating some of the isolates in the production cycle, i.e. some sort of vertical or transgenerational transmission may occur. It has also been shown that avirluent ISAV isolates are fairly common in Norwegian farmed salmon. Based on this, it is hypothesized that the change from avirulent to virulent ISAV isolates is a stochastic event that is dependent on the replication frequency of the virus and the time available for changes in a highly polymorphic region (HPR) of the HE gene to occur. This, and the possibility that only avirluent ISAV isolates are vertically transmitted, may explain why ISA most often occurs at marine sites and why no more than about 15 farms get ISA every year in Norway.