A team of scientists from the Aquatic Biotechnology Center of the University of Santiago, have discovered that there is a link between the infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus that hit the Chilean salmon industry and the Norwegian strain of the disease.
The researchers compared the genomes of infected fish in Chile with the information of specimens infected in Norway, reports the newspaper El Mercurio.
“It was logical that the disease had come with its own host, which is the Atlantic salmon,” said Marcelo Cortez San Martin, an expert who participated in the project.
The studies results were published this month in the Virology Magazine, one of the most prestigious in the world for its field.
Scientists who conducted the investigation confirmed that the virus entered the country through imported eggs and ruled out the possibility that the disease was latent historically in Chile.
“The theory that everyone believes, and is highly accepted, is that the virus came from the eggs. When Chile began in the industry, they did not have the technology to reproduce the fish. So initially, they had to be a big importer,” said Cortez San Martín.
What scientists can not clarify is whether the arrival of this virus into the country was intentional or accidental.
Even last August, the Office of Puerto Montt decided not to persevere in the investigation to find any individuals responsible for the spread of the ISA virus due to a lack sufficient background information to accuse any person or company.
The National salmon farming industry has been facing the consequences of the ISA outbreaks since 2007: a deep crisis affecting sanitation, jobs and the economy.
In the region of Los Lagos, in particular, the virus to date has caused a loss of more than USD 160 million, according to Ecoceanos News.
Last year, Roberto Neira, a researcher at the University of Chile, said the closure of the country’s borders to the importation of eggs to prevent the introduction of diseases such as ISA, among others, is “essential for health security reasons.”
“The important thing is that the genetic management is adequate to produce good quality eggs with implemented genetics and propagation systems which are required. There is a lot of knowledge over the issue, of good quality, as demonstrated by Chilean contributions which have been published and recognised even at an international level,” said Neira.
He added: “I think if they close the borders to the importation of eggs, the benefits will far outweigh any potential losses. However, it is argued that imports are worth the risk as they could afford exceptional genetic stocks that allow for high-quality lines to replace any losses incurred by allowing imports from sources qualified under strict sanitary control tests with high technical requirements.”