Serology in Finfish for Diagnosis, Surveillance, and Research: A Systematic Review

Diana Jaramillo, Edmund J. Peeler, Emilie Laurin, Ian Gardner, Richard J. Whittington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Historically, serological tests for finfish diseases have been underused when compared with their use in terrestrial animal health. For years the nonspecific immune response in fish was judged to make serology unreliable and inferior to the direct measurement of agent analytes. We conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed publications that reported on the development, validation, or application of serological tests for finfish diseases. A total of 168 articles met the screening criteria; most of them were focused on salmonid pathogens (e.g., Aeromonas spp. and viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus). Before the 1980s, most publications reported the use of agglutination tests, but our review indicates that enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) has more recently become the dominant serological test. The main application of serological tests has been in the assessment of vaccine efficacy, with few applications for surveillance or demonstration of freedom from disease, despite the advantages of serological tests over direct detection at the population level. Nonlethal sampling, low cost, and postinfection persistence of antibodies make serological assays the test of choice in surveillance, especially of valuable broodstock. However, their adoption has been constrained by poor characterization and validation. The number of publications in our review reporting diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of serological tests in finfish was small (n = 7). Foreseeing a wider use of serological tests in the future for diagnostic end purposes, we offer recommendations for mitigating deficiencies in the development and evaluation of serological tests, including optimization, control of nonspecific reactions, informed cutoff points, diagnostic accuracy, and serological baseline studies. Achieving these goals will facilitate greater international recognition of serological testing in programs supporting aquatic animal health. Received March 21, 2016; accepted September 24, 2016 Published online February 6, 2017

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Aquatic Animal Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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