Viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV) genotype IVa causes mass mortality in wild Pacific herring, a species of economic value, in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Young of the year herring are particularly susceptible and can be carriers of the virus. To understand its pathogenesis, tissue and cellular tropisms of VHSV in larval and juvenile Pacific herring were investigated with immunohistochemistry, transmission electron microscopy, and viral tissue titer. In larval herring, early viral tropism for epithelial tissues (6d post-exposure) was indicated by foci of epidermal thickening that contained heavy concentrations of virus. This was followed by a cellular tropism for fibroblasts within the fin bases and the dermis, but expanded to cells of the kidney, liver, pancreas, gastrointestinal tract and meninges in the brain. Among wild juvenile herring that underwent a VHS epizootic in the laboratory, the disease was characterized by acute and chronic phases of death. Fish that died during the acute phase had systemic infections in tissues including the submucosa of the gastrointestinal tract, spleen, kidney, liver, and meninges. The disease then transitioned into a chronic phase that was characterized by the appearance of neurological signs including erratic and corkscrew swimming and darkening of the dorsal skin. During the chronic phase viral persistence occurred in nervous tissues including meninges and brain parenchymal cells and in one case in peripheral nerves, while virus was mostly cleared from the other tissues. The results demonstrate the varying VHSV tropisms dependent on the timing of infection and the importance of neural tissues for the persistence and perpetuation of chronic infections in Pacific herring.
Additional publication details
Viral tropism and pathology associated with viral hemorrhagic septicemia in larval and juvenile Pacific herring