Little is known about the factors that drive the high levels of between-host variation in pathogen burden that are frequently observed in viral infections. Here, two factors thought to impact viral load variability, host genetic diversity and stochastic processes linked with viral entry into the host, were examined. This work was conducted with the aquatic vertebrate virus, Infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV), in its natural host, rainbow trout. It was found that in controlled in vivo infections of IHNV, a suggestive trend of reduced between-fish viral load variation was observed in a clonal population of isogenic trout compared to a genetically diverse population of out-bred trout. However, this trend was not statistically significant for any of the four viral genotypes examined, and high levels of fish-to-fish variation persisted even in the isogenic trout population. A decrease in fish-to-fish viral load variation was also observed in virus injection challenges that bypassed the host entry step, compared to fish exposed to the virus through the natural water-borne immersion route of infection. This trend was significant for three of the four virus genotypes examined and suggests host entry may play a role in viral load variability. However, high levels of viral load variation also remained in the injection challenges. Together, these results indicate that although host genetic diversity and viral entry may play some role in between-fish viral load variation, they are not major factors. Other biological and non-biological parameters that may influence viral load variation are discussed.
Additional publication details
Analysis of host genetic diversity and viral entry as sources of between-host variation in viral load