Indigenous versus Lessepsian Hosts: Nervous necrosis virus (NNV) in eastern Mediterranean Sea fish

Yael Lampert, Ran Berzak, Nadav Davidovich, Arik Diamant, Nir Stern, Aviad P. Scheinin, Dan Tchernov, Danny Morick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Viruses are among the most abundant and diverse biological components in the marine environment. In finfish, viruses are key drivers of host diversity and population dynamics, and therefore, their effect on the marine environment is far-reaching. Viral encephalopathy and retinopathy (VER) is a disease caused by the marine nervous necrosis virus (NNV), which is recognized as one of the main infectious threats for marine aquaculture worldwide. For over 140 years, the Suez Canal has acted as a conduit for the invasion of Red Sea marine species into the Mediterranean Sea. In 2016–2017, we evaluated the prevalence of NNV in two indigenous Mediterranean species, the round sardinella (Sardinella aurita) and the white steenbras (Lithognathus mormyrus) versus two Lessepsian species, the Randall’s threadfin bream (Nemipterus randalli) and the Lessepsian lizardfish (Saurida lessepsianus). A molecular method was used to detect NNV in all four fish species tested. In N. randalli, a relatively newly established invasive species in the Mediterranean Sea, the prevalence was significantly higher than in both indigenous species. In S. lessepsianus, prevalence varied considerably between years. While the factors that influence the effective establishment of invasive species are poorly understood, we suggest that the susceptibility of a given invasive fish species to locally acquired viral pathogens such as NVV may be important, in terms of both its successful establishment in its newly adopted environment and its role as a reservoir ‘host’ in the new area.

Original languageEnglish
Article number430
Issue number4
StatePublished - 10 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors.


  • Fish
  • Indigenous species
  • Lessepsian species
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Nervous necrosis virus (NNV)
  • Viral diseases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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