Coutinho C.D., Ford, C.F, Trafford, J.D., Duarte, A., Rebelo, R. & Rosa G.M. (2023) Non-lethal detection of ranavirus in fish.Viruses - Basel, 15(2), 471. DOI:10.3390/v15020471 (IF2022 4,7; Q2 Virology)
Emergent infectious diseases have an increasing impact on both farmed animals and wildlife. The ability to screen for pathogens is critical for understanding host–pathogen dynamics and informing better management. Ranavirus is a pathogen of concern, associated with disease outbreaks worldwide, affecting a broad range of fish, amphibian, and reptile hosts, but research has been limited. The traditional screening of internal tissues, such as the liver, has been regarded as the most effective for detecting and quantifying Ranavirus. However, such methodology imposes several limitations from ethical and conservation standpoints. Non-lethal sampling methods of viral detection were explored by comparing the efficacy of both buccal swabbing and fin clipping. The study was conducted on two Iberian, threatened freshwater fish (Iberochondrostoma lusitanicum and Cobitis paludica), and all samples were screened using qPCR. While for C. paludica both methods were reliable in detecting Ranavirus, on I. lusitanicum, there was a significantly higher detection rate in buccal swabs than in fin tissue. This study, therefore, reports that fin clipping may yield false Ranavirus negatives when in small-bodied freshwater fish. Overall, buccal swabbing is found to be good as an alternative to more invasive procedures, which is of extreme relevance, particularly when dealing with a threatened species.