Nav: Home

New virus found during investigation into largemouth bass fish kill

August 05, 2016

MADISON, Wis. -- A new virus has been identified in association with a die-off of largemouth bass in Pine Lake in Wisconsin's Forest County.

The previously unknown virus was isolated at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's La Crosse Fish Health Center from dead fish collected by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) during an investigation into a May 2015 fish kill in the northeastern Wisconsin lake.

The virus's genome was sequenced at a "virus hunting laboratory" operated by Tony Goldberg in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine. With the genome in hand, Goldberg and his colleagues scoured genetic databases to see if the virus was known or something novel.

The pathogen, according to Goldberg, was indeed new to science and has been dubbed largemouth bass reovirus. It has yet to be directly linked to fish mortality, explains Goldberg. However, the virus is a distant relative of other viruses associated with disease in other fish species, making it a key suspect in the Pine Lake fish kill.

"We can't say if it is directly responsible for fish mortality yet," says Goldberg. "But these kinds of viruses are known pathogens of fish, so we would be prudent to be concerned about it."

The new virus is described this week in the online version of the Journal of General Virology in a research report authored by Goldberg and colleagues from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the DNR. Its discovery comes against the backdrop of a deadly fish pathogen, viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus, which was found in 2006 in Lake Winnebago. Viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus has since been found in lakes Michigan and Superior and, should it spread, poses a threat to Wisconsin's inland fisheries, including iconic species such as musky, pike, bass, panfish and trout.

"Largemouth bass reovirus is only the second representative of its group of viruses," notes Goldberg, an epidemiologist, world expert on emerging infectious disease, and associate director of research at the UW-Madison Global Health Institute. "This family of viruses are emerging pathogens that infect all sorts of animals. They cause kills in marine and freshwater fisheries, including in wild and farmed populations."

Although the virus was discovered in association with a fish kill, more work is needed to understand if it is the primary culprit, Goldberg says. However, large fish kills involving a single species of fish such as largemouth bass have not been previously recorded at Pine Lake, making the virus a suspicious finding.

Should the virus be directly implicated in fish mortality, it will pose a new challenge in the control of fish disease in Wisconsin. Anglers spend roughly $2.1 billion annually in the state, according to the DNR, and the state has an aquaculture industry with an estimated $21 million annual economic impact. The Great Lakes together have a commercial fishery valued at $23 million annually.

"This is a classic example of how science is essential for managing our natural resources and the economic benefits they bring to Wisconsin," says Goldberg. "Without strong science, Wisconsin cannot hope to respond effectively to these types of emerging problems."

Identifying the new virus was made possible by "next generation sequencing" technologies. These methods enable biologists to sequence millions of molecules of genetic material in a sample and then use powerful computers to decipher the results. As the technology becomes more accessible, Goldberg expects other fish viruses to be found.

"The take-home message is that you don't have to fly to the ends of the Earth to find examples of unknown, emerging diseases," says Goldberg. "We can find them right here in Wisconsin."

There is no evidence that the new virus poses a risk to human health.
-end-
Terry Devitt, (608) 262-8282, trdevitt@wisc.edu

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Related Virus Articles:

New insights into how the Zika virus causes microcephaly
Scientists have uncovered why Zika virus may specifically target neural stem cells in the developing brain, potentially leading to microcephaly.
New Zika virus inhibitor identified
Compound could serve as basis for drugs to prevent neurological complications of Zika.
Zeroing in on the Zika virus
Hobman has been announced as one of three Canadian scientists who have received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for their teams to study the Zika virus.
What does it take for an AIDS virus to infect a person?
Researchers examined the characteristics of HIV-1 strains that were successful in traversing the genital mucosa that forms a boundary to entry by viruses and bacteria.
Cough virus kills liver cancer cells and hepatitis virus
A virus that causes childhood coughs and colds could help in the fight against primary liver cancer, according to a study.
Characterizing the Zika virus genome
The sudden emergence of the Zika virus epidemic in Latin America in 2015-16 has caught the scientific world unawares.
Discovery of new Hepatitis C virus mechanism
Researchers at Osaka University, Japan uncovered the mechanisms that suppress the propagation of the hepatitis C virus with the potential of improving pathological liver conditions.
What does Zika virus mean for the children of the Americas?
A special communication article published online by JAMA Pediatrics explores whether new paradigms in child health may emerge because of Zika virus.
Predicting the spread of the Zika virus
A new tool by Japan-based researchers predicts the risk of Zika virus importation and local transmission for 189 countries.
An old new weapon against emerging Chikungunya virus
Researchers utilize existing drugs to interfere with host factors required for replication of Chikungunya virus.

Related Virus Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...