PRV and HSMI lab report: we got it

We see someone managed to get a hold of the lab report for Ms. Alexandra Morton’s farmed fish samples last week and posted it. We snagged it and have re-hosted it for your viewing and educational enjoyment.

Yes, we finally found it, despite asking Ms. Morton for it several times in email and being ignored; and also asking for it in comments on her blog (from which we have now been blocked simply for asking her to prove her claims).

But we got it anyway.

And this lab report is important, because it shoots holes in Ms. Morton’s claims about PRV (piscine reovirus) and HSMI (Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation), which she stated are present in farmed salmon.

Important, because she has read it, and must know she is playing fast and loose with the facts.

Her words:

Test results report 44 out of 45 farm salmon purchased from the Superstore and T&T markets throughout Vancouver tested positive for a newly identified Norwegian virus. The piscine reovirus weakens the fish’s heart causing Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI).

She also stated:

Our discovery of the salmon heart virus, piscine reovirus (PRV) which causes Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) has been reported on in the press.

What the lab report actually says:

“The PRV sequences detected by RT-PCR could be from viable or non-viable virus.”

“The presence of PRV sequences in the tissue samples does not imply that the subject fish had HSMI or that HSMI is present in the area where the subject fish were collected from.”

“Confirmation of PRV infection requires further investigation.”

“The laboratory did not participate in the collection of the samples or in the custody of the samples prior to receipt of the samples. The laboratory therefore cannot guarantee the integrity of the sample.”

The lab report also stated the virus detected in PCR testing was 99 per cent identical to two Norwegian strains; however, the lab report also points out those two Norwegian strains are the only PRV sequences in the internationally-used genetics database.

The virus looks like the ones on file, but there are only two strains on file.

That’s kind of like trying to match fingerprints in a database of two.

We really have a lot to learn about fish viruses, and this lab report shows that we can’t make broad claims based on a little bit of data.

But that doesn’t fit in with the anti-salmon farming activists’ modus operandi of “exaggerate to apocalyptic proportions,” now, does it?



32 thoughts on “PRV and HSMI lab report: we got it”

  1. Hmmm Another comment should be on the fact that there were NO POSITIVE CONTROLS available – and that the samples from this testing would be used as such in future testing. Unusual lab protocol…..

  2. This blog is more insulting than it is informative. Why have the authors here investigated the literature themselves, and evaluate the open-source data? That HSMI is caused by a reovirus that is propagated in the conditions in open-net pen salmon farms is well understood. What is less understood is how we continue to farm diseased and suffering fish and place them on our market shelves. There are with consequences for also propagating less nutritional filets, direct disease transfer through the process of zoonoses, and antibiotic resistance development from the use of antibiotics to maintain disease fish that have recently been determined to contribute to antibiotic resistance in current human pathogens of significant concern.

    1. You assert “That HSMI is caused by a reovirus that is propagated in the conditions in open-net pen salmon farms is well understood.”

      No. It is not. As a scientist, you should know that one paper positing a correlation does not make the correlation true. The vast majority of virologists and fish health scientists agree that PRV MAY be linked to HSMI because that’s all the current evidence can lead them to conclude. Equally, PRV MAY NOT be linked to HSMI, it may be a coincidence.

      As for findings in B.C. please feel free to provide any evidence you may have access to, either on your own or via your friend Alexandra Morton, which shows that any fish in B.C. actually have the HSMI disease. We would love to see it.

      1. Salmon Farm UnScience,

        I did not know you could not review the scientific literature independently.

        With respect to your comment, please see the current literature regarding PRV in farmed salmonids. The virus has now been determined to be the etiological agent of HSMI through rigorous experimental study by Department of Food Safety and Infection Biology, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Oslo, Norway. I provide a link below, along with the history of PRV in escaped farmed salmon as the infectious source to wild fish. I hope you can review these data and the conclusions appropriately and take action to stop the spread of farmed salmon diseases from your farms that are the known vectors of PRV that threaten wild salmon and the environment.

        Dr. Bethune

        Vet Res. 2014 Apr 3;45:35. doi: 10.1186/1297-9716-45-35.
        Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) infects Atlantic salmon erythrocytes.

        J Fish Dis. 2014 Jan 27. doi: 10.1111/jfd.12228.
        Potential disease interaction reinforced: double-virus-infected escaped farmed Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., recaptured in a nearby river.

        The role of escaped farmed salmon in spreading infectious agents from aquaculture to wild salmonid populations is largely unknown. This is a case study of potential disease interaction between escaped farmed and wild fish populations. In summer 2012, significant numbers of farmed Atlantic salmon were captured in the Hardangerfjord and in a local river. Genetic analyses of 59 of the escaped salmon and samples collected from six local salmon farms pointed out the most likely source farm, but two other farms had an overlapping genetic profile. The escapees were also analysed for three viruses that are prevalent in fish farming in Norway. Almost all the escaped salmon were infected with salmon alphavirus (SAV) and piscine reovirus (PRV). To use the infection profile to assist genetic methods in identifying the likely farm of origin, samples from the farms were also tested for these viruses. However, in the current case, all the three farms had an infection profile that was similar to that of the escapees. We have shown that double-virus-infected escaped salmon ascend a river close to the likely source farms, reinforcing the potential for spread of viruses to wild salmonids.

      2. Necroing a two-year-old story’s comment thread to attempt to dispute it with studies published this year is pretty cheap.

        As well, you should point out that these studies refer to Norway, where the environmental conditions and fish populations are very different from BC.

        You are in error when you suggest that “farms…are the known vectors of PRV that threaten wild salmon and the environment,” at least in BC. As we mentioned recently, PRV has been in BC, in wild fish, since at least 1977, a decade before we started farming Atlantic salmon in this province.

        Finally, we will repeat what we asked you last year, since you seem to be very close with Alexandra Morton these days. We said, and the invitation still stands:

        “As for findings in B.C. please feel free to provide any evidence you may have access to, either on your own or via your friend Alexandra Morton, which shows that any fish in B.C. actually have the HSMI disease. We would love to see it.”

  3. Which is why it is important that the DFO scientists, the Province, the fish farm industry, the independent labs and the concerned citizens be examined under oath by independent counsel to determine just who, if anyone, is playing fast and loose with the facts.

    Based on the past testimony in the Cohen Commission, there is not a lot of credibility to be shared by the regulators and the industry.

    Transparency and accountability please (from all sides)

  4. Oh and don’t forget her famous super bug scare from the 90’s. This one and the whale actually disobeyed all known rules of science. The links she was proposing were biologically impossible.

  5. According to an e mail I recieved from Mark H
    Hume of the Globe and Mauil, he HAD the well sructinized lab report BEFORE he wrote that coilumn in the G and M.
    I asked why he had not:— never got an answer.
    signed “Rantin'”

  6. Great work on getting the report. I have been blocked numerous times by Morton for posting opposing views. I’ve tried numerous times to post on her blog but she censors what she allows to be posted and doesn’t respond to you even if she allows your post. She cannot handle anyone who is contrary to her agenda. It’s time people forced her hand and made her own up to the truth. For instance the OIE lab website shows nothing for diseases claimed by Morton in BC salmon farmed or wild for 2011 or 2012. She even asks on her own blog on Alex Morton Typepad why the Prince Edward Island OIE lab shows no confirmed ISA or other disease results as claimed by her . This is the same lab she credits with confirming those results. Pretty funny. I guess it doesn’t occur to her or her sidekick Routledge the statistician the confirmed results are not posted because they don’t exist. Seriously why is the OIE lab wasting their valuable time testing samples that they cannot verify the chain of command for ? Perhaps Ricky can give us the statistics for how many times Morton has made false reports since statistics are actually what his degree is in and not biology or fish health science ?

  7. Aquaculture never shares any of their lab reports either, unless forced to by the federal courts, so what if Dr. Morton doesn’t want to share with you? You haven’t reported on these lab reports correctly. Read them more carefully:
    What she has said IS supported by the lab reports that you have posted. The samples DO have the virus; the virus can cause HSMI; it HAS been sequenced to match the infectious Norwegian strain within 99% whether they have 2 or 4 or a dozen PRV sequences in the internationally-used genetics database is beside the point i.e..they DO match; it’s common practise for a lab report to say they didn’t participate in the collection or custody, they would say the same to you if you sent some in; and, this is only part of the lab report.
    Rather than all the time and energy trashing these reports, why not just be transparent and test all your farms for PRV, at the SAME lab, and post YOUR reports! Work towards protecting wild and farmed salmon.

    1. So you have never seen this obviously:

      Fish health reporting under the provincial government (until Ms. Morton’s lawsuit prompted the shift to federal government) was done annually, and those reports included the results from all the PCR testing the provincial lab did on farmed salmon. This information was always available to the public; you are mythmaking when you claim that “aquaculture never shares any of their lab reports.” Salmon farmers have been making that data publicly available since 2003.

      1. On that website you shared one can see a “report,” one does not see the actual lab results.

    2. Quote from Sushido: “Rather than all the time and energy trashing these reports, why not just be transparent and test all your farms for PRV, at the SAME lab, and post YOUR reports! Work towards protecting wild and farmed salmon.”

      Actually you should be upset at Ms Morton because she didn’t include all the literature on the subject in her blog. I suggest that instead of hanging on Morton’s every word that you try asking those directly involved that have the experience. You might also want to find out what a “reovirus” really is. More importantly, instead of spending your time and energy “supporting” this recent study of Ms Morton you might want to start be objective and start asking some questions on how well this study actually done. If wild salmon are important to you then Ms Morton owes it to people like you to do it right.

      Palacios, G., Lovoll, M., Tengs, T., Hornig, M., Hutchison, S., Hui, J., Kongtorp, R.T., Savji, N., Bussetti, A.V., Solovyov, A., Kristoffersen, A.B., Celone, C., Street, C., Trifonov, V., Hirschberg, D.L., Rabadan, R., Egholm, M., Rimstad, E. & Lipkin, W.I. 2010. Heart and skeletal muscle inflammation of farmed salmon is associated with infection with a novel reovirus. PloS One 5(7), e11487.

      Saksida, S.M., G.D. Marty, S. St-Hilaire, S.R.M. Jones, H.A. Manchester, C.L. Diamond, and J. Bidulka. 2012. Parasites and hepatic lesions among pink salmon, Oncorhynchus gorbuscha (Walbaum), during early seawater residence. J. Fish Dis. 35:137-151.

      1. Hey SFS, any chance you can do a list of Morton disease false alarms so far? She must be up to 5 by now including sea lice. I remember she started with accusing farm fish of causing an outbreak of vibrio in returning adults in the 90’s- later to discover the strain of vibrio was from the nearby DFO hatchery. Then there was the sepitcemia found in a dead whale that was obviously from fish farms (NOT). Was there more?

        With the data compiled maybe we could find trends and better predict the next outbreak of Morton false alarms. I think she is averaging about 1 every 2 years.

      2. We would be very interested in doing something like this, if you have any documentation which would help with this please email it to us! salmonfarmscience {at gmail } dot com.

      3. One of the reasons why there are independent commissions of inquiry is to assess the evidence, hear testimony and allow the decision maker to gather evidence and opinion from independent experts with a public duty to the inquiry and not an individual duty to the participants.

        The matter is just too serious for both the wild and farmed salmon advocates to leave it only to the jousting claims of partisans. And after the Cohen Commission findings, to leave it only to scientific advice with organizational conflicts of interest.


  8. I had always thought that lab results were the property of the person who paid for the analysis.

    Regardless of the results, until and unless they are released by the owner, there has been a possible theft. Hacking ??

    1. Ms. Morton chooses to make extraordinary claims about salmon farming while withholding the evidence. That is dishonest and we have challenged that by providing the science she hides from the public.

  9. So you guys are now banned from Morton’s site for trying ask questions? Welcome to the club. Seems like Ms. Morton is doing her own bit of “muzzling”? She will post a few opinions that are contrary to her beliefs to make it seem like she open to discussion, but in reality she runs her blog like a little dictatorship where she has direct control over the content and how her views are protrayed. In my opinion, it is easier that way so she does not have to worry about slipping up by accident. She can also avoid the tougher questions. That is why she is seldom on other blogs or forums unless there is a site where there is a definite following that supports her. As I said before, this site does a good job in addressing Ms Morton’s work in a way that is cuts through the fluff and does not get into mudslinging. Ms Morton has displayed no mercy with governmental scientists and their studies so it is only fair that her own work is brought under the same scrutiny. People that suggest this is “attacking” Ms Morton need to consider the expectations of a RPBio and the responsibilities that come with it before they start blindingly defending her studies.

    Ms Morton ran a poor study as I indicated in another forum. She concentrated on one reference and basically ignored the rest of the literature on the subject. No documented methodology, no controls, no examination of the tissues, and no chain of custody in addition to the faulty conclusions about this virus and HSMI. All we have is this one page report and some vague methods in her blog. If this was any other RPBio they would have been royaly burned at the stake. To this day, Ms Morton still has no idea where these fish actually came from if you read her blog. Asking the store clerk at Superstore does not make the grade. She did not even look at the tissues which they did in the study she referenced. That would have been difficult with the “gutted” fish she had, but she decided to make the linkages with HSMI anyway. Previous studies by the province actually involved looking at the tissues for signs of disease. Ms Morton should have sought expert advice from someone in fish pathology to look more closely at the fish if she was so concerned about them, She should have considered the limitations of her results and been more responsible on what interpretation she could reasonably make from them. She should have come up with a better study design and looked closely what previous studies did because as it stands now she cannot make comparable conclusions. Very irresponsible and very unbecoming of a RPBio in my opinion.

  10. I only see 24 samples on this lab report – where are the 45 Morton talks about? Is there another report or is she lying about the number of samples?

    1. No, she is not lying. If the Cohen Commission is re-opened you will be able to see the full reports.

  11. Good job getting the report and presenting the data SFS!- I am very close to forgiving you for using the words “epidemic” and “sea “lice” together, in a non-ironic way, in another article you posted earlier this year.

  12. Again, this lady is wasting far too many peoples time with these poorly collected samples. Seriously, does she really have a science degree? Shameful if so.

    1. Whether they came from a grocery store or not, the point is that the lab really CAN identify the virus and was even able to match the particular PRV strain. This has nothing to do with Dr. Morton, or how they were collected. The lab sees the virus. I am sure she would prefer to that fresh samples from farms were tested, as Ms Walling promised at the Cohen Commission but did not follow through on.

  13. Blocking you for asking for the proof. Unbelievable! You should get this lab report in front of the few journalists who got suckered into this story. Mark Hume, Global News etc.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. The lab reports clearly identify PRV – the reports may indeed be what inspired Mark Hume to report the news.

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