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Scottish researchers look for early CMS detection in salmon

October 10, 2019  By Hatchery International staff

The project consortium hopes to identify early warning signs of CMS in salmon (Credit: Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre)The project consortium hopes to identify early warning signs of CMS in salmon (Credit: Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre)

Scottish researchers are developing an early warning system to fight one of the biggest issues in the salmon farming industry.

Cardiomyopathy syndrome (CMS) is a fatal viral disease which causes inflammation of the heart in fish. Researchers from the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) are collaborating with local aquaculture companies to identify specific cardiac markers in the blood of the fish in hopes of identifying early warning signs of the disease.

“Monitoring the spread of disease in cages requires laborious, expensive sampling to achieve only limited results,” said Dr. Andrei Bordeianu, veterinarian from Cooke Aquaculture Scotland. “Investigating new possibilities to measure the virus’ impact on large sections of our salmon population is something that will bring invaluable support to health monitoring on our farms and will help us to evaluate the mitigation measures we currently undertake.”

The project consortium includes Cooke Aquaculture, the University of Edinburgh, Life Diagnostics, Benchmark Genetics, Moredun Research Institute and the SAIC. The team will apply diagnostic techniques currently used in human and veterinary diagnostics to identify new cardiac markers in salmon.


This will include on-site farm testing which is expected to provide results within three hours. The biomarkers could also help differentiate between CMS and other salmon heart diseases.

“Finding simple, cost effective and non-lethal diagnostic methods that can help to reduce the impact of disease in aquaculture is crucial to addressing the objectives of the Scottish government’s 10-year Farmed Fish Health Framework,“ said Dr. Polly Douglas, aquaculture innovation manager at SAIC.

While the triggers of CMS are not fully understood, it is known to be caused by piscine myocarditis virus (PMCV) and can lead to heart failure in seemingly healthy fish. In Norway, CMS is considered to be the biggest cause of economic losses to the salmon industry. After sea lice and handling, the cost of CMS outbreaks cost the industry about €145 million (U$160 million) in 2018.

In addition to the detection of the disease, the project aims to also contribute to future genetic breeding programs against CMS. Methodologies developed in the project could potentially help farmers to identify fish that have physiological resistance to the disease.

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