Muskellunge Management: Fifty Years of Cooperation Among Anglers, Scientists, and Fisheries Biologists

A Comparison of Virulence of Four Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus IVb Strains in Muskellunge

Chaunte Lewis, John M. Farrell, Kelly L. Sams, Emily R. Cornwell, and Rodman G. Getchell


Abstract.—Viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV) has been found in fish populations throughout the Great Lakes basin since 2003. It is a single-stranded RNA virus that affects a number of fish species, including Muskellunge Esox masquinongy, a major predator in these waters. The purpose of this experiment was to compare the virulence of four strains of VHSV IVb (MI03, vcG002, FPL2013-002, and FPL2014-001). Age-0 Muskellunge were randomly assigned to one of the strains and exposed to either a high (5 × 105 plaque forming units/mL) or low (5 × 104 plaque forming units/mL) dose for 1 h by immersion. Fish were then monitored for clinical signs of infection, such as petechial hemorrhages, lethargy, and death, whereupon brain and pooled organ samples were harvested using aseptic technique. Quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction assays in Muskellunge were performed along with viral isolation in order to confirm the presence of VHSV. Results of the Cox proportional hazard regression models did demonstrate a difference when comparing the time to death of the high dose versus the low dose, but no difference was observed when comparing the time to death of the four isolates over the course of the experiment. When comparing viral load in Muskellunge pooled spleen, heart, liver, and anterior and posterior kidneys or separate brain samples, there were no differences between the strains or the doses detected. Future studies with lower doses closer to the LD50 may differentiate changes in virulence properties of VHSV IVb.