Scientific Reports: ‘Descriptive multi-agent epidemiology via molecular screening on Atlantic salmon farms in the northeast Pacific Ocean’

Rapid expansion of salmon aquaculture has resulted in high‑density populations that host diverse infectious agents, for which surveillance and monitoring are critical to disease management. Screening can reveal infection diversity from which disease arises, differential patterns of infection in live and dead fish that are difficult to collect in wild populations, and potential risks associated with agent transmission between wild and farmed hosts. We report results from a multi‑year infectious‑agent screening program of farmed salmon in British Columbia, Canada, using quantitative PCR to assess presence and load of 58 infective agents (viruses, bacteria, and eukaryotes) in 2931 Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Our analysis reveals temporal trends, agent correlations within hosts, and agent‑associated mortality signatures. Multiple agents, most notably Tenacibaculum maritimum, were elevated in dead and dying salmon. We also report detections of agents only recently shown to infect farmed salmon in BC (Atlantic salmon calicivirus, Cutthroat trout virus‑2), detection in freshwater hatcheries of two marine agents (Kudoa thyrsites and Tenacibaculum maritimum), and detection in the ocean of a freshwater agent (Flavobacterium psychrophilum). Our results provide information for farm managers, regulators, and conservationists, and enable further work to explore patterns of multi‑agent infection and farm/wild transmission risk.