Potential Diagnosis of Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation in Atlantic Salmon at a B.C. Fish Farm

News Release

May 20, 2016

Vancouver, British Columbia - Applying newly introduced and integrated technologies, a team of international researchers, led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO’s) Dr. Kristi Miller, has diagnosed a potential Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) in farmed Atlantic salmon samples collected from a B.C. aquaculture facility in 2013-2014. This research was undertaken as part of the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative (SSHI), a collaboration between DFO, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Genome British Columbia to better understand the distribution of microbes and diseases in wild and cultured (hatchery and aquaculture) salmon in B.C. 

HSMI is a disease that affects fish; there is no risk to human health. In Norway, it can be a significant production challenge to an affected farm and can be associated with generally low mortality on farms, generally between 0 to 20%. To date, HSMI has not been diagnosed in wild Pacific salmon and has only been observed in farmed Atlantic salmon. DFO will continue to work collaboratively with the SSHI and the aquaculture industry to learn more about this disease and its potential impact on salmon in B.C.

Quick Facts

  • These findings are presently limited to a single farm. DFO is now taking steps to better understand what these findings mean and to map a way forward.
  • HSMI is found in farmed Atlantic salmon and was originally reported in Norway in the late 1990s. The specific causes of HSMI have not been established.
  • HSMI is not a condition that causes high mortality in fish and is not considered a “reportable disease” by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or the World Organisation for Animal Health.
  • A relationship between Piscine Reo-Virus (PRV) and HSMI is being investigated but any role of PRV in the development of HSMI remains unclear.
  • Recent testing of archived samples has revealed that PRV has been present in salmonids on the Pacific coast of North America since at least 1988.
  • The Department has supported research that has examined the role of PRV as a causative agent of HSMI or other disease in wild sockeye and farmed Atlantic salmon. To date these laboratory studies have shown no evidence of HSMI or other disease.
  • The study examined 45 pathogens across more than 500 hearts from farmed salmon and no reportable pathogens were detected.


“Dr. Miller and her team’s research helps to provide yet another piece in the complex puzzle of salmon health on the Pacific coast. These findings are important for fish health and the scientific community because they help us to better understand certain conditions that are affecting fish.”

Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

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Michelle Rainer
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Stephen Bruyneel
Pacific Salmon Foundation


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