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Molecular Epidemiology Of Salmonid Alphavirus (SAV) Subtype 3

NORWAY - Pancreas disease (PD) is a viral fish disease which in recent years has significantly affected Norwegian salmonid aquaculture. In Norway, the aetiological agent salmonid alphavirus (SAV) has been found to be represented by the subtype 3 only.

Background

SAV subtype 3 has in previous analyses been found to show a lower genetic divergence than the subtypes found to cause PD in Ireland and Scotland. The aim of this study was to evaluate the nucleotide (nt) and amino acid divergence and the phylogenetic relationship of 33 recent SAV subtype 3 sequences. The samples from which the sequences were obtained originated from both PD endemic and non-endemic regions in an attempt to investigate agent origin/spread. Multiple samples throughout the seawater production phase from several salmonid populations were included to investigate genetic variation during an outbreak. The analyses were mainly based on partial sequences from the E2 gene. For some samples, additional partial 6K and nsP3 gene sequences were available.

Results

The nucleotide divergence for all gene fragments ranged from total identity (0.0 per cent divergence) to 0.45 per cent (1103 nt fragment of E2), 1.11 per cent (451 nt fragment of E2), 0.94 per cent (6K) and 0.28 per cent (nsP3). This low nucleotide divergence corresponded well to previous reports on SAV 3 sequences; however the observed divergence for the short E2 fragment was higher than that previously reported. When compared to SAVH20/03 (AY604235), amino acid substitutions were detected in all assessed gene fragments however the in vivo significance of these on for example disease outbreak mortality could not be concluded on. The phylogenetic tree based on the 451nt E2 fragment showed that the sequences divided into two clusters with low genetic divergence, representing only a single SAV subtype.

Conclusions

The analysed sequences represented two clusters of a single SAV subtype; however some of the observed sequence divergence was higher than that previously reported by other researchers. Larger scale, full length sequence analyses should be instigated to allow further phylogenetic and molecular epidemiology investigations of SAV subtype 3.

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