Two-year surveillance of tilapia lake virus (TiLV) reveals its wide circulation in tilapia farms and hatcheries from multiple districts of Bangladesh

Tilapia lake virus (TiLV) is an emerging pathogen in aquaculture, reportedly affecting farmed tilapia in 16 countries across multiple continents. Following an early warning in 2017 that TiLV might be widespread, we executed a surveillance program on tilapia grow-out farms and hatcheries from 10 districts of Bangladesh in 2017 and 2019. Among farms experiencing unusual mortality, eight out of 11 farms tested positive for TiLV in 2017, and two out of seven tested positive in 2019. Investigation of asymptomatic broodstock collected from 16 tilapia hatcheries revealed that six hatcheries tested positive for TiLV. Representative samples subjected to histopathology confirmed pathognomonic lesions of syncytial hepatitis. We recovered three complete genomes of TiLV from infected fish, one from 2017 and two from 2019. Phylogenetic analyses based on both the concatenated coding sequences of 10 segments and segment 1 only consistently revealed that Bangladeshi TiLV isolates formed a unique cluster within Thai clade, suggesting a close genetic relation. In summary, this study revealed the circulation of TiLV in 10 farms and six hatcheries located in eight districts of Bangladesh. We recommend continuing TiLV-targeted surveillance efforts to identify contaminated sources to minimize the countrywide spread and severity of TiLV infection.