1887

Abstract

The putatively non-virulent subtype of infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISAV), ISAV-HPR0, is proposed to act as a progenitor and reservoir for all virulent ISAVs and thus represent a potential risk factor for the emergence of infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) disease. Here, we provide the first evidence of genetic and functional evolution from an ISAV-HPR0 variant (FO/07/12) to a low-virulent ISAV virus (FO/121/14) in a Faroese Atlantic salmon marine farm. The FO/121/14 virus infection was not associated with specific clinical signs of ISA and was confined to a single net-pen, while various ISAV-HPR0 subtypes were found circulating in most epidemiologically linked marine and freshwater farms. Sequence analysis of all eight segments revealed that the FO/121/14 virus was identical, apart from a substitution in the fusion (F) gene (Q266L) and a deletion in the haemagglutinin-esterase (HE) gene, to the FO/07/12 variant from a freshwater farm, which supplied smolts exclusively to the FO/121/14-positive net-pen. An immersion challenge with the FO/121/14 virus induced a systemic infection in Atlantic salmon associated with a low mortality and mild clinical signs confirming its low pathogenicity. Our results demonstrate that mutations in the F protein and deletions in the highly polymorphic region (HPR) of the HE protein represent a minimum requirement for ISAV to gain virulence and to switch cell tropism from a localized epithelial infection to a systemic endotheliotropic infection. This documents that ISAV-HPR0 represents a reservoir and risk factor for the emergence of ISA disease.

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2017-05-05
2019-10-17
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