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Conserv Physiol. 2017 Jun 27;5(1):cox036. doi: 10.1093/conphys/cox036. eCollection 2017.

Molecular indices of viral disease development in wild migrating salmon.

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Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Biological Station, 3190 Hammond Bay Road, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada V9T 6N7.
Günther Analytics, 402-5775 Hampton Place, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 2G6.


Infectious diseases can impact the physiological performance of individuals, including their mobility, visual acuity, behavior and tolerance and ability to effectively respond to additional stressors. These physiological effects can influence competitiveness, social hierarchy, habitat usage, migratory behavior and risk to predation, and in some circumstances, viability of populations. While there are multiple means of detecting infectious agents (microscopy, culture, molecular assays), the detection of infectious diseases in wild populations in circumstances where mortality is not observable can be difficult. Moreover, if infection-related physiological compromise leaves individuals vulnerable to predation, it may be rare to observe wildlife in a late stage of disease. Diagnostic technologies designed to diagnose cause of death are not always sensitive enough to detect early stages of disease development in live-sampled organisms. Sensitive technologies that can differentiate agent carrier states from active disease states are required to demonstrate impacts of infectious diseases in wild populations. We present the discovery and validation of salmon host transcriptional biomarkers capable of distinguishing fish in an active viral disease state [viral disease development (VDD)] from those carrying a latent viral infection, and viral versus bacterial disease states. Biomarker discovery was conducted through meta-analysis of published and in-house microarray data, and validation performed on independent datasets including disease challenge studies and farmed salmon diagnosed with various viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases. We demonstrate that the VDD biomarker panel is predictive of disease development across RNA-viral species, salmon species and salmon tissues, and can recognize a viral disease state in wild-migrating salmon. Moreover, we show that there is considerable overlap in the biomarkers resolved in our study in salmon with those based on similar human viral influenza research, suggesting a highly conserved suite of host genes associated with viral disease that may be applicable across a broad range of vertebrate taxa.


aquaculture; disease biomarkers; host transcriptome; salmon; viral disease; wild populations

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