Chronic viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV) infections were established in a laboratory stock of Pacific herring Clupea pallasii held in a large-volume tank supplied with pathogen-free seawater at temperatures ranging from 6.8 to 11.6°C. The infections were characterized by viral persistence for extended periods and near-background levels of host mortality. Infectious virus was recovered from mortalities occurring up to 167 d post-exposure and was detected in normal-appearing herring for as long as 224 d following initial challenge. Geometric mean viral titers were generally as high as or higher in brain tissues than in pools of kidney and spleen tissues, with overall prevalence of infection being higher in the brain. Upon re-exposure to VHSV in a standard laboratory challenge, negligible mortality occurred among groups of herring that were either chronically infected or fully recovered, indicating that survival from chronic manifestations conferred protection against future disease. However, some survivors of chronic VHS infections were capable of replicating virus upon re-exposure. Demonstration of a chronic manifestation of VHSV infection among Pacific herring maintained at ambient seawater temperatures provides insights into the mechanisms by which the virus is maintained among populations of endemic hosts.
Additional publication details
Chronic and persistent viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus infections in Pacific herring