Sea star wasting disease (SSWD) is a condition that has affected asteroids for over 120 years, yet mechanistic understanding of this wasting etiology remains elusive. We investigated temporal virome variation in two Pisaster ochraceus
specimens that wasted in the absence of external stimuli and two specimens that did not experience SSWD for the duration of our study, and compared viromes of wasting lesion margin tissues to both artificial scar margins and grossly normal tissues over time. Global assembly of all SSWD-affected tissue libraries resulted in 24 viral genome fragments represented in >1 library. Genome fragments mostly matched densoviruses and picornaviruses with fewer matching nodaviruses, and a sobemovirus. Picornavirus-like and densovirus-like genome fragments were most similar to viral genomes recovered in metagenomic study of other marine invertebrates. Read recruitment revealed only two picornavirus-like genome fragments that recruited from only SSWD-affected specimens, but neither was unique to wasting lesions. Wasting lesion margin reads recruited to a greater number of viral genotypes (i.e., richness) than did either scar tissue and grossly normal tissue reads. Taken together, these data suggest that no single viral genome fragment was associated with SSWD. Rather, wasting lesion margins may generally support viral proliferation.
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