ISA virus spreads via red blood cells in blood vessels

April 10, 2013

New research shows how the interaction between Atlantic salmon and the ISA virus leads to the development and spreading of the influenza-like disease ISA in fish. The new findings may be of interest to research on influenza generally.

ISA was detected for the first time in Norway in 1984 and still poses a serious threat to the fish farming industry.ISA is the only disease of farmed Atlantic salmon that is listed by the World Organisation for . The disease usually breaks out in one cage and gradually spreads over a period of weeksand months to neighbouring cages. The disease cannot be treated and an of ISA can therefore result in large losses.

In her doctoral thesis, Maria Aamelfot elucidates some phases of the disease development. She has studied what type of cells which are receptive to the virus and what type of cells that actually becomes infected by the virus. Her findings describe the ability of the virus to infect or damage certain cells, tissues or organs. Aamelfot's research on this interaction between salmon and the ISA virus provides us with new knowledge about how the disease ISA develops and represents an important contribution towards, for example, .

Virus and receptor = key in a lock

Aamelfot has developed a method of detecting which cells and organs the virus can attach itself to and use as a port of entry for infecting the organism. If a virus is to be able to infect a cell, the cell must have the virus' specific receptor (adhesion structure) on its surface. Different viruses use their own specific and the virus adheres to these, just like a key fits in a lock.

ISA virus spreads via red blood cells in blood vessels

The ISA virus' receptor was found in the following cells in salmon: in (the inner lining of ), in in blood vessels and in cells covering the outside of the . This is the first research to reveal the presence and cell location of this type of receptor on sections of tissue. Aamelfot compared the receptor pattern with cells infected by the virus in diseased salmon and discovered a clear correlation.

The cells' "varnish" can get scratched

When the virus reproduces itself in endothelial cells, it is secreted directly into the blood and adheres to the red blood cells which then transport the virus around the blood system. Red blood cells appear to be damaged by being covered by the virus and this contributes to the circulatory disturbances that are characteristic for suffering from ISA.

Endothelial cells have several important functions when it comes to blood circulation and the immune defence system. The endothelial interface with the blood is covered by a "cloud" of sugar chains which have both a protective function and participate in communication between cells.

This layer of sugar can be compared to the paint on a car, which when scratched, leads to the development of rust. In the same way, the immune defence system in fish can be weakened if the sugar layer is injured.

ISA virus spreads via red blood cells in blood vessels

Aamelfot has also demonstrated how one structure of the sugar layer, a type of sialic acid, is distributed in the fish at the cellular level. This sialic acid probably plays an important role in maintaining good blood circulation and protecting the fish against infection.

Aamelfot conducted her doctoral research at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, where research fellows and engineers at the Veterinary Institute and at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science were key collaborators. Maria Aamelfot defended her PhD research on 21st March 2013 at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science with a thesis entitled "Tropism of infectious salmon anaemia virus and distribution of the 4-O-acetylated sialic acid receptor".

Explore further: Mobilizing white blood cells to the lung: New discovery could lead to an improved influenza vaccine

Related Stories

The secretive immune system of the salmon

January 27, 2009

During his doctoral thesis, Erlend Haugarvoll discovered new aspects of the salmon immune system. His research looked at the immune cells in the gills of salmon and at immune responses to vaccination. A special type of tissue, ...

ISA virus infects salmon from within

September 24, 2012

New findings on the interaction between an influenza-related virus and the host provide a significant contribution to understanding disease mechanisms behind the serious fish disease Infectious salmon anemia (ISA).

Recommended for you

Scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle

December 1, 2015

Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have engineered changes to the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system that significantly cut down on "off-target" ...

Study finds 'rudimentary' empathy in macaques

December 1, 2015

(—A pair of researchers with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Lyon, in France has conducted a study that has shown that macaques have at least some degree of empathy towards their fellow ...

Which came first—the sponge or the comb jelly?

December 1, 2015

Bristol study reaffirms classical view of early animal evolution. Whether sponges or comb jellies (also known as sea gooseberries) represent the oldest extant animal phylum is of crucial importance to our understanding of ...

Trap-jaw ants exhibit previously unseen jumping behavior

December 1, 2015

A species of trap-jaw ant has been found to exhibit a previously unseen jumping behavior, using its legs rather than its powerful jaws. The discovery makes this species, Odontomachus rixosus, the only species of ant that ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.