Viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV) is a rhabdovirus found in fish from oceans of the northern hemisphere and freshwaters of Europe. It has caused extensive losses of cultured and wild fish and has become established in the North American Great Lakes. Large die-offs of wild fish in the Great Lakes due to VHSV have alarmed the public and provoked government attention on the introduction and spread of aquatic animal pathogens in freshwaters. We investigated the relations between VHSV dispersion and shipping and boating activity in the Great Lakes by sampling fish and water at sites that were commercial shipping harbors, recreational boating centers, and open shorelines. Fish and water samples were individually analyzed for VHSV using quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and cell culture assays. Of 1,221 fish of 17 species, 55 were VHSV positive with highly varied qRT-PCR titers (1 to 5,950,000 N gene copies). The detections of VHSV in fish and water samples were closely associated and the virus was detected in 21 of 30 sites sampled. The occurrence of VHSV was not related to type of site or shipping related invasion hotspots. Our results indicate that VHSV is widely dispersed in the Great Lakes and is both an enzootic and epizootic pathogen. We demonstrate that pathogen distribution information could be developed quickly and is clearly needed for aquatic ecosystem conservation, management of affected populations, and informed regulation of the worldwide trade of aquatic organisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)