1887

Abstract

Salmonid alphavirus (SAV) causes infections in farmed Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout in Europe. Genetic diversity exists among SAV strains from farmed fish and six subtypes have been proposed based on genetic distance. Here, we used six full-genome sequences and 71 partial sequences of the structural ORF to estimate the evolutionary rate of SAV. The rate, 2.13×10 nt substitutions per site per year, was further used to date evolutionary events in a Bayesian phylogenetic framework. The comparison of these dates with known historical events suggested that all six subtypes diverged prior to the twentieth century, earlier than the first attempts to introduce and farm rainbow trout in Europe. The subtypes must therefore have existed in a wild reservoir, as yet unidentified. The strains of each subtype, with the exception of subtype 2, have a common ancestor that existed after the 1970s – the start of modern farming of Atlantic salmon. These ancestors are likely to represent the independent introductions to farmed fish populations from the wild reservoir. The subtypes have developed subsequently into self-sustainable epizootics. The most parsimonious phylogeographic reconstruction suggested that the location of the wild reservoir is in or around the North Sea. After the initial introductions to aquaculture, further transmission of SAV was likely related to the industry infrastructure. This was exemplified by the finding of genetically identical subtype 2 and 3 strains separated by large geographical distances, as well as genetically distinct co-circulating lineages within the same geographical area.

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2014-01-01
2021-08-04
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