Vaccine-associated granulomatous inflammation and melanin accumulation in Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., white muscle

J Fish Dis. 2005 Jan;28(1):13-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2761.2004.00583.x.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the nature of variably sized pigmented foci encountered in fillets of farmed Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L. The material was sampled on the fillet production line and on salmon farms from fish with an average size of 3 kg from various producers. The fish had been routinely vaccinated by injection. Gross pathology, histology, immunohistochemistry using antisera against major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II beta chain and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) were used to characterize the changes. Macroscopically, melanized foci were seen penetrating from the peritoneum deep into the abdominal wall, sometimes right through to the skin, and also embedded in the caudal musculature. Histological investigation revealed muscle degeneration and necrosis, fibrosis and granulomatous inflammation containing varying numbers of melano-macrophages. Vacuoles, either empty or containing heterogeneous material, were frequently seen. The presence of abundant MHC class II+ cells indicated an active inflammatory condition. TEM showed large extracellular vacuoles and leucocytes containing homogeneous material of lipid-like appearance. The results showed that the melanized foci in Atlantic salmon fillet resulted from an inflammatory condition probably induced by vaccination. The described condition is not known in wild salmon and in farmed salmon where injection vaccination is not applied.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquaculture
  • Fish Diseases / etiology
  • Fish Diseases / pathology*
  • Genes, MHC Class II / immunology
  • Granuloma / pathology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation / veterinary*
  • Leukocytes / ultrastructure
  • Melanins / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Salmo salar*
  • Vaccination / adverse effects*
  • Vacuoles / ultrastructure


  • Melanins