Tanzania Veterinary Journal

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Molecular detection of tilapia lake virus (TiLV) genome in Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) from Lake Victoria

A.A. Chengula, K.K. Mugimba, S. Wamala, E.D. Mwega, C.J. Kasanga, D.K. Byarugaba, R.H. Mdegela, A. Dishon, S. Mutoloki, L. David, Ø. Evensen, H.M. Munang’andu


Tilapia lake virus (TiLV) is an emerging pathogen of Tilapiines associated with high mortalities of wild and farmed tilapia posing great threat to the fishery industry worldwide. The virus has been reported in Israel, Ecuador, Colombia, Thailand, Egypt, Taiwan, India and Malaysia. In this study, a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay was developed and used to detect TiLV genome in Nile tilapia from Lake Victoria. Nile tilapia samples were collected from the Tanzanian (108 fish) and Ugandan (83 fish) parts of Lake Victoria in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Samples were screened for TiLV by using RT-PCR and the PCR products were sequenced. The findings show that out of the 191 fish examined, 28 had PCR products showing the presence of TiLV genome. The TiLV nucleic acids were detected in the spleen (10.99%, N=191), head kidney (7.69%, N=65), heart (3.45%, N=29) and liver (0.71%, N=140) samples while no PCR amplification was detected in the brain by the developed RT-PCR method. Generally, the findings show that the lymphoid organs, mainly comprising of the head kidney and spleen had the highest number of samples with positive nucleic acids for TiLV followed by heart samples. On the contrary, the liver and brain that have previously been shown to be target organs during acute infection either did not have or had the lowest level of TiLV nucleic acids detected in the present study. All the 28 sequences retrieved had an average length of 768 bp. A blast analysis on NCBI showed that all sequences obtained were homologous to TiLV segment-2 sequences obtained from previous outbreaks in Israel and Thailand. To our knowledge, this is the first detection of TiLV subclinical infections in Nile tilapia in Lake Victoria, a none-outbreak area.

Keywords: Lake Victoria, Nile tilapia, PCR, phylogenetic, surveillance, tilapia lake virus

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