Pathogenesis and immune response of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) exposed to Tilapia lake virus by intragastric route

Felipe Pierezan, Susan Yun, Chutchai Piewbang, Win Surachetpong, Esteban Soto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Tilapia lake virus (TiLV) is regarded as one of the most important pathogens in tilapia aquaculture worldwide. Despite this, little is known regarding disease pathogenesis and immune responses to infection. The main objective of this study was to investigate the tissue distribution, histopathological changes, and immune response of fish exposed to TiLV. Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) maintained at 25 ± 2 °C were challenged with TiLV via intragastric-gavage. At 0.5, 1, 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15 days post-challenge (dpc), six fish per treatment were euthanized and subjected to complete necropsy. TiLV exposed fish presented 45% cumulative mortality at the end of the study. Gross lesions included cutaneous petechiae and ecchymoses, scale losses, skin ulcers, and exophthalmia. Mild multifocal hepatocellular degeneration and necrosis was observed as early as 3 dpc occasionally accompanied by syncytial formation, intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies, and inflammatory infiltrates of lymphocytes at subsequent time points. Necrosis of epithelial cells of the gastric glands and intestinal glands was also observed as early as 5 dpc. Intestinal samples showed reactive in situ hybridization signals as early as 1 dpc. No other lesions were observed in the brain or other organs. Histological changes were associated with viral dissemination and disease progression, as evidenced by increased TiLV detection in the intestine, gills, liver and spleen. Highest TiLV abundance was detected 7 dpc in gills, intestine, and liver showing an average of 6 LOG genome equivalent per ng of total RNA. Different transcript abundance was detected for the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β and interferon-induced myxovirus resistance protein gene in the mucosal sites (gills and intestine). Interferon regulatory transcription factor 3 transcript was more abundant in systemic organs (liver and spleen) while the expression in gills and intestine showed mixed expression at different time points. On the other hand, transforming growth factor β expression patterns differed amongst the tissues with a trend towards downregulation of the gene in liver and gills, and a trend towards upregulation in the spleen and intestine. Overall, these results demonstrate the intestinal routes as a main port of entry for TiLV, which subsequently spreads systematically throughout the fish body.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-300
Number of pages12
JournalFish and Shellfish Immunology
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Emergent
  • Pathogenesis
  • Syncytial hepatitis
  • TiLV

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Aquatic Science


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