Fish Virus Vaccines (ViVaFish)

Viral diseases represent a huge problem for the global aquaculture industry, and many viral diseases cannot be effectively controlled using the current generation of vaccines.


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For reasons which are not well understood, the current generation of vaccines against fish viral diseases like salmon pancreas disease (SPD), infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN), and infectious salmon anemia (ISA), give only suboptimal protection. Vaccines are not available for viral diseases like heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) and cardiomyopathy syndrome (CMS). Thus, viral diseases may soon become a limiting factor in the future sustainability of the salmon aquaculture industry. Therefore, new vaccine strategies need to be developed, and the establishment of long term immune protection needs to be addressed. This requires a better understanding of the immune system in fish; the interaction between viruses and hosts; the biological basis for protection; and the development of more effective viral vaccines. These are the main targets for the newly established ViVaFish platform in Norway, founded by the Research Council of Norway.

Herd immunity should not only protect the vaccinated population in a net, but also prevent environmental- as well as in-farm spread of virus. This is particularly important in farmed fish where thousands of individuals are kept within a confined space. Experience has shown that farmed populations of salmon are capable of developing a long term protective immunological memory after natural viral infection, at least at the population level. Optimal vaccine design requires an understanding of the mechanisms and processes that induce long-lasting, protective immunity. This can be obtained by analysis of host-pathogen interactions, in order to identify fingerprints of protective immune responses.

Model and candidate vaccines against SPD, CMS, ISA and HSMI will be produced within this project. We believe that the disease causing mechanisms of the various salmon viral infections, and properties of the viruses, will be important for the choice of vaccination strategy. The same thinking would go for other virus infections in other fish species. These vaccines will be tested in experimental challenge models in which functional immune responses, host response measuring and in vivo efficacy testing will be assessed. Different vaccination strategies should be tested for each pathogen, including different routes of administration for the virus vaccines. Efficient viral vaccines elicit long-term antibody responses in addition to persisting cellular memory. The mechanisms that regulate this in fish are incompletely defined, and will be explored. The importance of immunity in gills and gut is also not well defined in fish although most viruses initially infect the host through these surfaces, but it has proven difficult to induce immunity through these surfaces in fish.

The ViVaFish platform will bring together ten leading Norwegian researchers from major national fish virology/immunology groups in Oslo, Bergen, and Tromsø, i.e. Norwegian University of Life Sciences- School of Veterinary Medicine and Norwegian Veterinary Institute in Oslo, Institute of Marine Reseasrch in Bergen, and University of Tromsø. ViVaFish is led by Professor Espen Rimstad of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. The establishment of the platform will create an important knowledge center for fish virology/immunology/vaccinology by combining the research efforts of the groups. The project will have a strong focus on international collaboration with research groups in diverse countries with an interest in fish health.

Kort om prosjektet på norsk:

Fiskevirusvaksiner (ViVaFish)

Virussykdommer representerer et stort problem for akvakulturindustrien i verden, og mange virussykdommer kan ikke kontrolleres effektivt av vaksiner som er på markedet nå.

Vaksiner mot pancreas disease (PD), infeksiøs pancreasnekrose (IPN) og infeksiøs lakseanemi (ISA) gir ikke god nok beskyttelse uten at årsakene til dette er kjent. Og mot enkelte infeksjoner er det ikke utviklet vaksiner ennå, for eksempel hjerte- og skjelettmuskelbetennelse (HSMI) og kardiomyopatisk syndrom (CMS).

Virussykdommer kan derfor snart bli til hinder for en bærekraftig oppdrettsnæring i fremtiden, og det er viktig å utvikle nye vaksiner som kan gi langvarig beskyttelse mor virussykdommer. Dette vil kreve mere kunnskap om fiskens immunsystem, om interaksjonen mellom virus og vert og om det biologiske grunnlaget for beskyttelse slik at mer effektive virusvaksiner kan utvikles. Dette er hovedmålene med prosjektet.