Infectious disease in fish: global risk of viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus

Luis E. Escobar, Joaquin Escobar-Dodero, Nicholas B.D. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


As the global human population continues to increase and become more industrialized, the need for safe, secure, and sustainable protein production is critical. One sector of particular importance is seafood production, where capture fishery and aquaculture industries provide 15–20% of the global protein supply. However, fish production can be severely affected by diseases. Notably, viral hemorrhagic septicemia, caused by the viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSv; Rhabdoviridae), may be one of the most devastating viral diseases of fishes worldwide. We explored the ecology and epidemiology of VHSv using an ecological niche modeling approach to identify vulnerable disease-free regions. Results showed an impressive ecological plasticity of VHSv. The virus was found in > 140 fish species in marine and freshwater ecosystems, with high diversity of lineages in Eurasia. Sub-genotypes from marine and fresh waters were ecologically similar, suggesting broad ecological niches, rather than rapid evolutive adaptation to novel environments. Ecological niche models predicted that VHSv may have favorable physical (e.g., temperature, runoff), chemical (e.g., salinity, pH, phosphate), and biotic (i.e., chlorophyll) conditions for establishing into areas with important fish industries that, so far, are believed to be disease-free (i.e., freshwater and marine ecosystems of Africa, Latin America, Australia, and inland China). The model and our review suggest fish species from the Perciformes, Salmoniformes, and Gadiformes orders are likely to be infected with VHSv in novel regions as the virus expands its range to areas predicted to be at risk. In conclusion, VHSv remains an emerging disease threat to global food security and aquatic biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-655
Number of pages19
JournalReviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements Authors thank Gael Kurath for her invaluable discussion on the ecology of VHSv. LEE thanks A. Townsend Peterson and Huijie Qiao for their crucial role in developing disease biogeography theory and methods employed here. Andres Perez provided comments in an early version. This study was supported by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. LEE thanks the University of Minnesota Institute of the Environment for grant MiniGrants MF-0010-15 used to support the internship of JED in Minnesota. LEE had full access to all the data in the study and had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature.

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Disease
  • Ecological niche model
  • VHS
  • Viral hemorrhagic septicemia

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