Rapid Scan for Salmon Sickness

Hakai Magazine –

Until now, a pathologist seeking to determine a salmon’s cause of death might scrutinize a set of tissue samples under a microscope or culture a bacterial or viral sample over several days to isolate the cause of the disease.

All of that is changing fast at the federal Pacific Biological Station (PBS) in Nanaimo, British Columbia, where researchers have created a novel, game-changing shortcut that sleuths out systemic infectious diseases—even before the fish is obviously sick. “It’s really going to be powerful,” says Kristi Miller, who heads the salmon genetics section at PBS.

Using little more than a tiny tissue sample from a salmon’s gill, researchers can identify the presence of unique biological markers that reveal not only if a fish is suffering from an infectious disease, but whether it harbors a disease agent that is not yet obvious.

“Just because you detect an agent, doesn’t mean it has a disease,” says Miller. “We all walk around with little bits of flu bugs and things all the time.”

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