Histopathological investigation of complex gill disease in sea farmed Atlantic salmon

Gjessing M. C., Steinum T. M., Olsen A. B., Lie K. I., Tavornpanich S., Colquhoun D. J., ...More

PLOS ONE, vol.14, no.10, 2019 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 14 Issue: 10
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222926
  • Journal Name: PLOS ONE
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


Various agents including Ca. Piscichlamydia salmonis, Ca. Branchiomonas cysticola, Des-mozoon lepeophtherii, Paramoeba perurans and salmon gill poxvirus may be associated with complex gill disease in Atlantic salmon. Co-infections involving two or more of these agents are common and histopathological interpretation of lesions is therefore challenging. In this study, we developed a semi-quantitative scoring system for examination of histopathological gill lesions in sea-farmed Atlantic salmon suffering from gill disease. Following qPCR analysis of gills sampled for Ca. P. salmonis, Ca. B. cysticola, D. lepeophtherii and P. perurans from 22 geographically spread outbreaks, five cases representing different infectious loads and combinations of agents were chosen for histopathological scoring. Twenty-eight histological features were evaluated and potential associations between individual pathological changes and the occurrence of individual agents studied. The inter-observer agreement in interpretation of histological parameters between the three pathologists involved, was calculated to validate robustness of the scoring scheme. Seventeen histological parameters met the criteria for inter-observer agreement analysis and were included in the calculation. The three most frequent findings were identification of subepithelial leukocytes, epithelial cell hyperplasia and mucus cell hyperplasia. While few findings could be specifically related to particular agents, necrosis in hyperplastic lesions, pustules and necrosis of subepithelial cells appeared to be associated with the presence of Ca. B. cysticola. Further, lesion profiles clearly support the previously identified association between P. perurans and pathological changes associated with AGD. Very few pathological changes were observed in the single case in which Ca. P. salmonis was the dominating agent. Some lesions were only very rarely observed e.g. chloride cell necrosis, epithelial cell apoptosis, lamellar deposition of melanin and haemophagocytosis. The scoring scheme developed and applied was robust and sensitive. A less extensive scheme for routine diagnostic use is proposed.