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Detection and characterization of a novel marine birnavirus isolated from Asian seabass in Singapore

Chen, Jing, Toh, Xinyu, Ong, Jasmine, Wang, Yahui, Teo, Xuan-Hui, Lee, Bernett, Wong, Pui-San, Khor, Denyse, Chong, Shin-Min, Chee, Diana, Wee, Alvin, Wang, Yifan, Ng, Mee-Keun, Tan, Boon-Huan, Huangfu, Taoqi
Virology journal 2019 v.16 no.1 pp. 71
Aquabirnavirus, Lates calcarifer, Lepomis macrochirus, cell death, cell lines, chloroform, cytopathogenicity, disease outbreaks, disease transmission, economic impact, farmed animal species, fish, fish farms, genome, high-throughput nucleotide sequencing, monitoring, nucleotide sequences, phylogeny, polymerase chain reaction, signs and symptoms (animals and humans), transmission electron microscopy, viruses, Australia, Singapore
BACKGROUND: Lates calcarifer, known as seabass in Asia and barramundi in Australia, is a widely farmed species internationally and in Southeast Asia and any disease outbreak will have a great economic impact on the aquaculture industry. Through disease investigation of Asian seabass from a coastal fish farm in 2015 in Singapore, a novel birnavirus named Lates calcarifer Birnavirus (LCBV) was detected and we sought to isolate and characterize the virus through molecular and biochemical methods. METHODS: In order to propagate the novel birnavirus LCBV, the virus was inoculated into the Bluegill Fry (BF-2) cell line and similar clinical signs of disease were reproduced in an experimental fish challenge study using the virus isolate. Virus morphology was visualized using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Biochemical analysis using chloroform and 5-Bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BUDR) sensitivity assays were employed to characterize the virus. Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) was also used to obtain the virus genome for genetic and phylogenetic analyses. RESULTS: The LCBV-infected BF-2 cell line showed cytopathic effects such as rounding and granulation of cells, localized cell death and detachment of cells observed at 3 to 5 days’ post-infection. The propagated virus, when injected intra-peritoneally into naïve Asian seabass under experimental conditions, induced lesions similar to fish naturally infected with LCBV. Morphology of LCBV, visualized under TEM, revealed icosahedral particles around 50 nm in diameter. Chloroform and BUDR sensitivity assays confirmed the virus to be a non-enveloped RNA virus. Further genome analysis using NGS identified the virus to be a birnavirus with two genome segments. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that LCBV is more closely related to the Blosnavirus genus than to the Aquabirnavirus genus within the Birnaviridae family. CONCLUSIONS: These findings revealed the presence of a novel birnavirus that could be linked to the disease observed in the Asian seabass from the coastal fish farms in Singapore. This calls for more studies on disease transmission and enhanced surveillance programs to be carried out to understand pathogenicity and epidemiology of this novel virus. The gene sequences data obtained from the study can also pave way to the development of PCR-based diagnostic test methods that will enable quick and specific identification of the virus in future disease investigations.