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J Fish Dis. 2006 Apr;29(4):233-44.

Longitudinal study of a natural outbreak of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation in Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L.

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Section for Fish Health, National Veterinary Institute, Oslo, Norway.


Heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) is a transmissible disease of farmed Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L. It is characterized by significant epi-, endo- and myocarditis, as well as myositis, particularly involving red skeletal muscle. The aetiology of HSMI is currently unresolved, though a viral cause is suspected. Since its discovery in 1999, HSMI has become an increasing problem for the Norwegian farming industry, with some farms experiencing yearly outbreaks and subsequent economic losses. In the present study an Atlantic salmon farm was studied from December 2003 to April 2005. Samples from apparently healthy as well as clinically diseased fish were collected monthly and examined histopathologically. The first fish to be diagnosed with HSMI was sampled in May, 8 months after transfer to sea. A clinical outbreak of HSMI followed in June, when all fish in the sample had lesions consistent with HSMI. Subsequent samples revealed that cardiac lesions decreased in severity 2 months after the start of the outbreak, but that multiple foci of cellular infiltration and necrosis persisted throughout the year. There appeared to be a shift in lesion location from being most severe in the compact myocardium in early stages of disease to a greater involvement of the atrium and spongy layer of the ventricle in later samples. Late samples also showed increased fibrosis of cardiac tissue. In conclusion, HSMI appears to be a severe disease with elevated mortality, morbidity close to 100% and prolonged duration.

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