One hundred and forty-eight wild whitefish, Coregonus lavaretus (L.), were caught by electrofishing and sampled for virological examination in December 1999 and 2000, during migration from the brackish water feeding grounds to the freshwater spawning grounds, where the whitefish may come into contact with farmed rainbow trout. All samples were examined on cell cultures. No viruses were isolated. Three viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus (VHSV) isolates of different origin were tested in infection trials by immersion and intraperitoneal (IP) injection, using 1.5 g farmed whitefish: an isolate from wild caught marine fish, a farmed rainbow trout isolate with a suspected marine origin and a classical freshwater isolate. The isolates were highly pathogenic by IP injection where 99-100% of the whitefish died. Using an immersion challenge the rainbow trout isolates were moderately pathogenic with approximately 20% mortality, whereas the marine isolate was virtually non-pathogenic. At the end of the experiment it was possible to isolate VHSV from survivors infected with the marine and suspected marine isolates. Because of the low infection rate in wild whitefish in Denmark, the role of whitefish in the spread of VHSV in Denmark is probably not significant. The experimental studies, however, showed that whitefish are potential carriers of VHSV as they suffer only low mortality after infection but continue to carry virus.
Journal of Fish Diseases, 2004, Vol 27, Issue 7, p. 401-408