Transmission routes maintaining a viral pathogen of steelhead trout within a complex multi-host assemblage

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This is the first comprehensive region wide, spatially explicit epidemiologic analysis of surveillance data of the aquatic viral pathogen infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV) infecting native salmonid fish. The pathogen has been documented in the freshwater ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest of North America since the 1950s, and the current report describes the disease ecology of IHNV during 2000–2012. Prevalence of IHNV infection in monitored salmonid host cohorts ranged from 8% to 30%, with the highest levels observed in juvenile steelhead trout. The spatial distribution of all IHNV-infected cohorts was concentrated in two sub-regions of the study area, where historic burden of the viral disease has been high. During the study period, prevalence levels fluctuated with a temporal peak in 2002. Virologic and genetic surveillance data were analyzed for evidence of three separate but not mutually exclusive transmission routes hypothesized to be maintaining IHNV in the freshwater ecosystem. Transmission between year classes of juvenile fish at individual sites (route 1) was supported at varying levels of certainty in 10%–55% of candidate cases, transmission between neighboring juvenile cohorts (route 2) was supported in 31%–78% of candidate cases, and transmission from adult fish returning to the same site as an infected juvenile cohort was supported in 26%–74% of candidate cases. The results of this study indicate that multiple specific transmission routes are acting to maintain IHNV in juvenile fish, providing concrete evidence that can be used to improve resource management. Furthermore, these results demonstrate that more sophisticated analysis of available spatio-temporal and genetic data is likely to yield greater insight in future studies.




Breyta, R., Brito, I., Ferguson, P., Kurath, G., Naish, K. A., Purcell, M. K., … LaDeau, S. (2017). Transmission routes maintaining a viral pathogen of steelhead trout within a complex multi-host assemblage. Ecology and Evolution, 7(20), 8187–8200.

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