Salmon Saved From Epidemic Thanks to Virus Discovery

atlantic salmon in norway photo

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Farmed Atlantic salmon make up a popular portion of the more than 110 million ton-farmed fish industry—but a deadly and, until now, mysterious affliction threatens the commercial future of the fish.

New research, however, may help researchers save Atlantic salmon on farms and in the wild.

atlantic salmon jumping photo

Image credit: fotoroto/Flickr

Heart and skeletal muscle inflammation is an often fatal disease first discovered in Norway in 1999. Since then, it has spread through Norway and the United Kingdom, infecting more than 400 fish farms.

The disease, which destroys heart and muscle tissues, kills 20 percent of infected fish and may not be limited to aquaculture. Because farmed fish often escape their pens, or come into contact with nearby wild populations, it is feared that the disease may jump off the farm—possibly creating a large-scale epidemic.

salmon farm photo

Fish farms often allow contact with nearby wild populations. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Now, new research has identified a previously unknown virus as the potential cause of Heart and skeletal muscle inflammation. Gustavo Palacios, who led the research, explained:

Our data provide compelling evidence that HSMI is associated with infection with a new reovirus...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

Though more research will be needed to confirm the reovirus is the cause of the disease, scientists are not waiting to find a solution: Research in Norway is already underway to develop a vaccine for the virus.

Read more about salmon:
Researchers Make White LED Light Bulbs using Salmon DNA
Pitting Salmon Against Agribusiness
30,000 Farmed Salmon Make A Break For It

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