Heart and skeletal muscle inflammation of farmed salmon is associated with infection with a novel reovirus
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) mariculture has been associated with epidemics of infectious diseases that threaten not only local production, but also wild fish coming into close proximity to marine pens and fish escaping from them. Heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) is a frequently fatal disease of farmed Atlantic salmon. First recognized in one farm in Norway in 1999, HSMI was subsequently implicated in outbreaks in other farms in Norway and the United Kingdom. Although pathology and disease transmission studies indicated an infectious basis, efforts to identify an agent were unsuccessful. Here we provide evidence that HSMI is associated with infection with piscine reovirus (PRV). PRV is a novel reovirus identified by unbiased high throughput DNA sequencing and a bioinformatics program focused on nucleotide frequency as well as sequence alignment and motif analyses. Formal implication of PRV in HSMI will require isolation in cell culture and fulfillment of Koch's postulates, or prevention or modification of disease through use of specific drugs or vaccines. Nonetheless, as our data indicate that a causal relationship is plausible, measures must be taken to control PRV not only because it threatens domestic salmon production but also due to the potential for transmission to wild salmon populations.
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