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Summary

The current study was undertaken in order to assess the risk that different ranaviruses might impose on European sheatfish aquaculture. As the European sheatfish virus (ESV) is a known pathogen causing losses in European sheatfish aquaculture, it was assumed that closely related exotic ranaviruses might also be able to infect European sheatfish and probably cause disease and mortality in this species. The differential susceptibility of European sheatfish (Silurus glanis) to various ranavirus isolates was assessed at two different temperatures (15°C and 25°C) in a recirculation system. Fish were infected experimentally with a panel of ranavirus isolates including ESV, European catfish virus (ECV), European catfish virus isolate 24 (ECV-24), Epizootic haematopoietic necrosis virus (EHNV), Rana esculenta virus isolate Italy 282/ I02 (REV), short-finned eel virus (SERV), Bohle iridovirus (BIV), guppy virus 6 (GV6), doctor fish virus (DFV) and Frog virus 3 (FV3). Significant mortalities were observed, as expected, in fish infected with ESV at 15°C (100%) as well as at 25°C (86/83%). Fish infected with ECV at 15°C showed no clinical signs of disease (8% mortality), whereas those fish infected at 25°C exhibited a cumulative mortality of 54%. Fatal disease was also induced by Italian isolate ECV-24 at 25°C (81%). Virus isolates ESV, ECV and ECV-24, generally the most genetically closely related viruses, were successfully isolated from dead fish by cell culture with subsequent identification by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and sequence analysis. However, no mortality or clinical signs of disease were observed in the groups of sheatfish infected with the other ranaviruses investigated in the study, and none of those viruses were re-isolated in cell culture or identified by PCR. It was concluded that European sheatfish are susceptible to infection with ESV, ECV and ECV-24 under laboratory conditions, but not to infection with EHNV, REV, SERV, BIV, GV6, DFV or FV3. For ESV, the incubation period was shorter at 25°C compared to 15°C water temperature, but whereas all fish died after ESV infection at 15°C, some fish survived the infection at 25°C. Futhermore, the very young sheatfish were susceptible to ECV and ECV-24 at 25°C, whereas there was no significant mortality in the group of older sheatfish challenged with ECV at 15°C. Therefore, the clinical characteristics of the disease seem to depend on the age of the fish as well as on the water temperature.