Rhabdoviruses are a family of enveloped negative-sense single-stranded RNA viruses infecting a variety of hosts. Recently, two vertically transmitted salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) rhabdoviruses (LsRV) have been identified. The prevalence of these viruses was measured along the Norwegian coast and found to be close to 100%, and with the present lack of suitable cell lines to propagate these viruses, it is challenging to obtain material to study their host impact and infection routes. Thus, virus free lice strains were established from virus infected lice carrying one or both LsRVs by treating them with N protein dsRNA twice during development. The viral replication of the N protein was specifically down-regulated following introduction of virus-specific dsRNA, and virus-free lice strains were maintained for several generations. A preliminary study on infection routes suggested that the LsRV-No9 is maternally transmitted, and that the virus transmits from males to females horizontally. The ability to produce virus free strains allows for further studies on transmission modes and how these viruses influences on the L.salmonis interaction with its salmonid host. Moreover, this study provides a general fundament for future studies on how vertically transmitted rhabdoviruses influence the biology of their arthropod hosts.
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