A novel virus growth competition assay for determining relative fitness of RNA virus variants in vivo has been developed using the fish rhabdovirus, Infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV), in juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). We have conducted assays with IHNV isolates designated B, C, and D, representing the three most common genetic subtypes that co-circulate in Idaho trout farm aquaculture. In each assay, groups of 30 fish were immersed in a 1:1 mixture of two genotypes of IHNV, and then held in individual beakers for a 72 h period of in vivo competitive virus replication. Progeny virus populations in each fish were analyzed for the presence and proportion of each viral genotype. In two independent assays of the B:C isolate pair, and two assays of the B:D pair, all fish were co-infected and there was a high level of fish-to-fish variation in the ratio of the two competing genotypes. However, in each assay the average ratio in the 30-fish group was not significantly different from the input ratio of 1:1, indicating equal or nearly equal viral fitness on a host population basis, under the conditions tested. ?? 2008.
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In vivo virus growth competition assays demonstrate equal fitness of fish rhabdovirus strains that co-circulate in aquaculture