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Isolation and characterization of a rhabdovirus from starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus) collected from the northern portion of Puget Sound, Washington, USA

January 1, 2004

The initial characterization of a rhabdovirus isolated from a single, asymptomatic starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus) collected during a viral survey of marine fishes from the northern portion of Puget Sound, Washington, USA, is reported. Virions were bullet-shaped and approximately 100 nm long and 50 nm wide, contained a lipid envelope, remained stable for at least 14 days at temperatures ranging from -80 to 5 degrees C and grew optimally at 15 degrees C in cultures of epithelioma papulosum cyprini (EPC) cells. The cytopathic effect on EPC cell monolayers was characterized by raised foci containing rounded masses of cells. Pyknotic and dark-staining nuclei that also showed signs of karyorrhexis were observed following haematoxylin and eosin, May-Grunwald Giemsa and acridine orange staining. PAGE of the structural proteins and PCR assays using primers specific for other known fish rhabdoviruses, including Infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus, Viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus, Spring viremia of carp virus, and Hirame rhabdovirus, indicated that the new virus, tentatively termed starry flounder rhabdovirus (SFRV), was previously undescribed in marine fishes from this region. In addition, sequence analysis of 2678 nt of the amino portion of the viral polymerase gene indicated that SFRV was genetically distinct from other members of the family Rhabdoviridae for which sequence data are available. Detection of this virus during a limited viral survey of wild fishes emphasizes the void of knowledge regarding the diversity of viruses that naturally infect marine fish species in the North Pacific Ocean.