Recently, it has been shown that the salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) is commonly infected by one or two vertically transmitted Lepeophtheirus salmonis rhabdoviruses (LsRVs). As shown in the present study, the viruses have limited effect on louse survival, developmental rate and fecundity. Since the LsRVs were confirmed to be present in the louse salivary glands, the salmon cutaneous immune response towards LsRV positive and negative lice was analyzed. In general, L. salmonis increased the expression of IL1β, IL8 and IL4/13A at the attachment site, in addition to the non-specific cytotoxic cell receptor protein 1 (NCCRP-1). Interestingly, LsRV free lice induced a higher skin expression of IL1β, IL8, and NCCRP-1 than the LsRV infected lice. The inflammatory response is important for louse clearance, and the present results suggest that the LsRVs can be beneficial for the louse by dampening inflammation. Further research is, however; needed to ascertain whether this is a direct modulatory effect of secreted virions, or if virus replication is altering the level of louse salivary gland proteins.
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