The effect of exposure to farmed salmon on piscine orthoreovirus infection and fitness in wild Pacific salmon in British Columbia, Canada

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Abstract

The disease Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) is causing substantial economic losses to the Norwegian salmon farming industry where the causative agent, piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), is reportedly spreading from farmed to wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) with as yet undetermined impacts. To assess if PRV infection is epidemiologically linked between wild and farmed salmon in the eastern Pacific, wild Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus sp.) from regions designated as high or low exposure to salmon farms and farmed Atlantic salmon reared in British Columbia (BC) were tested for PRV. The proportion of PRV infection in wild fish was related to exposure to salmon farms (p = 0.0097). PRV was detected in: 95% of farmed Atlantic salmon, 37–45% of wild salmon from regions highly exposed to salmon farms and 5% of wild salmon from the regions furthest from salmon farms. The proportion of PRV infection was also significantly lower (p = 0.0008) where wild salmon had been challenged by an arduous return migration into high-elevation spawning habitat. Inter-annual PRV infection declined in both wild and farmed salmon from 2012–2013 (p 0.002). These results suggest that PRV transfer is occurring from farmed Atlantic salmon to wild Pacific salmon, that infection in farmed salmon may be influencing infection rates in wild salmon, and that this may pose a risk of reduced fitness in wild salmon impacting their survival and reproduction.

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Morton, A., Routledge, R., Hrushowy, S., Kibenge, M., & Kibenge, F. (2017). The effect of exposure to farmed salmon on piscine orthoreovirus infection and fitness in wild Pacific salmon in British Columbia, Canada. PLoS ONE, 12(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188793

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