Infectious salmon anemia, a potentially lethal virus thought to have been recently discovered in Pacific salmon, has not been found in tests conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The CFIA rushed to do sampling of Pacific salmon from British Columbia after tests done by Simon Fraser University researchers, in October, indicated the ISA virus had been found for the first time in samples collected on the West Coast.
But Con Kiley, director of the national aquatic animal health program for the CFIA, said Friday during a teleconference that follow up tests on the SFU samples had failed to confirm the presence of the virus.
“The government of Canada in collaboration with the province of British Columbia has completed testing all samples related to the suspected infectious-salmon-anemia investigation in B.C. Based on the final results, there are no confirmed cases of the disease in wild or farmed salmon in B.C.,” he said.
Nonetheless, the CFIA is ramping up surveillance efforts on the Pacific Coast.
Dr. Kiley said that, historically, surveillance for ISA has been jointly managed by the aquaculture industry, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the province of B.C.
But the CFIA is now planning to join that program.
He said the CFIA is “leading the development of a surveillance plan to compliment current surveillance efforts for salmon species in British Columbia.”
The surveillance program will study both wild Pacific and farmed Atlantic salmon.
After the SFU tests indicated the ISA virus was present in B.C. a lab in Norway also did tests on 48 B.C. samples, but only got one “weak positive result,” which could not be confirmed in subsequent tests.
Dr. Kiley said the corner stone of good science is repeatable test results – and at this stage none of the preliminary positive tests have been repeatable, so the presence of the virus cannot be confirmed.
Further concerns about ISA were raised this week when documents filed with the Cohen Commission were leaked. Those documents indicate the ISA virus had been detected in 117 fish sampled in 2002 and 2003 by Molly Kibenge, who was then doing post doctoral work at DFO’s Pacific Biological Station (PBS), in Nanaimo.
But Ms. Kibenge’s findings, detailed in an unpublished 2004 research paper, were never released.
Ms. Kibenge now works in the East Coast lab, headed by her husband, Fred Kibenge, where the SFU tests were done. She wrote to Simons Jones at PBS last month, asking for clearance to submit her 2004 paper for publication.
But Dr. Jones, head of the aquatic animal health section at PBS, denied her request, saying her findings had not been confirmed in tests at the time.
“You may recall that Fish Health staff at DFO disagreed that your data supported the conclusion that ISA virus, whether asymptomatic or otherwise, occurred in the salmon you examined,” he wrote. “In my opinion, it will be very important to better understand the disagreement in laboratory results and to better test the hypothesis of ‘Asymptomatic ISAV’ before moving towards publication.”
The conflicting laboratory results regarding the ISA virus will be examined by the Cohen Commission during a special session, Dec. 15 and 16.