Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) post-smolts challenged two or nine weeks after seawater-transfer show differences in their susceptibility to salmonid alphavirus subtype 3 (SAV3)
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
Background Pancreas disease (PD), caused by salmonid alphavirus (SAV), is an important disease affecting salmonid aquaculture. It has been speculated that Atlantic salmon post-smolts are more prone to infections in the first few weeks following seawater- transfer. After this period of seawater acclimatization, the post-smolts are more robust and better able to resist infection by pathogens. Here we describe how we established a bath immersion (BI) model for SAV subtype 3 (SAV3) in seawater. We also report how this challenge model was used to study the susceptibility of post-smolts to SAV3 infection in two groups of post-smolts two weeks or nine weeks after seawater - transfer. Methods Post-smolts, two weeks (Phase-A) or nine weeks (Phase-B) after seawater- transfer, were infected with SAV3 by BI or intramuscular injection (IM) to evaluate their susceptibility to infection. A RT-qPCR assay targeting the non-structural protein (nsP1) gene was performed to detect SAV3-RNA in blood, heart tissue and electropositive-filtered tank-water. Histopathological changes were examined by light microscope, and the presence of SAV3 antigen in pancreas tissue was confirmed using immuno-histochemistry. Results Virus shedding from the Phase-B fish injected with SAV3 (IM Phase-B) was markedly lower than that from IM Phase-A fish. A lower percentage of viraemia in Phase-B fish compared with Phase-A fish was also observed. Viral RNA in hearts from IM Phase-A fish was higher than in IM Phase-B fish at all sampling points (p < 0.05) and a similar trend was also seen in the BI groups. Necrosis of exocrine pancreatic cells was observed in all infected groups. Extensive histopathological changes were found in Phase-A fish whereas milder PD-related histopathological lesions were seen in Phase-B fish. The presence of SAV3 in pancreas tissue from all infected groups was also confirmed by immuno-histochemical staining. Conclusion Our results suggest that post-smolts are more susceptible to SAV3 infection two weeks after seawater-transfer than nine weeks after transfer. In addition, the BI challenge model described here offers an alternative SAV3 infection model when better control of the time-of-infection is essential for studying basic immunological mechanisms and disease progression.