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New virus may pose risk to wild salmon
Date:7/9/2010

Farmed fish are an increasingly important food source, with a global harvest now at 110 million tons and growing at more than 8 percent a year. But epidemics of infectious disease threaten this vital industry, including one of its most popular products: farmed Atlantic salmon. Perhaps even more worrisome: these infections can spread to wild fish coming in close proximity to marine pens and fish escaping from them.

Heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI), an often fatal disease, was first detected in salmon on a farm in Norway in 1999, and has now been reported in 417 fish farms in Norway as well as in the United Kingdom. The disease destroys heart and muscle tissue and kills up to 20 percent of infected fish. Although studies have indicated an infectious basis, recent efforts to identify the pathogen causing the disease have been unsuccessful. Now, using cutting-edge molecular techniques, an international team led by W. Ian Lipkin, MD, the John Snow Professor of Epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, has found evidence that the disease may be caused by a previously unknown virus. The newly identified virus is related but distinct from previously known reoviruses, which are double-stranded RNA viruses that infect a wide range of vertebrates.

The full study findings are published online in the publication PLoS One.

"Our data provide compelling evidence that HSMI is associated with infection with a new reovirus," says Gustavo Palacios, first author of the study and assistant professor of Epidemiology in the Center.

"While there is no evidence that this could spread to humans, it is a threat to aquaculture and it has the potential to spread to wild salmon," added Dr. Lipkin.

To identify the virus, the Columbia University investigators used 454 high throughput DNA sequencing and bioinformatics, including a new tool
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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