Hematology patterns of migrating European eels and the role of EVEX virus

van Ginneken, V.J.T.; Ballieux, B.; Willemze, R.; Coldenhoff, K.; Lentjes, E.; Antonissen, E.; Haenen, O.L.M.; van den Thillart, G.


We show that European eels infected with the rhabdovirus EVEX (Eel Virus European X) virus, developed hemorrhage and anemia during simulated migration in large swim tunnels, and died after 1000-1500 km. In contrast, virus-negative animals swam 5500 km, the estimated distance to the spawning ground of the European eel in the Sargasso Sea. Virus-positive eels showed a decline in hematocrit, which was related to the swim distance. Virus-negative eels showed a slightly increased hematocrit. Observed changes in plasma lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), total protein and aspartate aminotransferase (AAT) are indicative of a serious viral infection. Based on these observations, we conclude that eel virus infections may adversely affect the spawning migration of eels, and could be a contributing factor to the worldwide decline of eel.