Cost-effectiveness of longitudinal surveillance for Piscirickettsia salmonis using qPCR in Atlantic salmon farms (Salmo salar) in Chile

Costs of diagnostic testing including sample collection, sampling frequency and sam- ple size are an important consideration in the evaluation of the economic feasibility of alternative surveillance strategies for detection of infectious diseases in aquatic animals. In Chile, Piscirickettsia salmonis is the primary reason for antibiotic treat- ments in farmed Atlantic salmon. In 2012, a surveillance and control programme for piscirickettsiosis was established with an overall goal of reducing antibiotic use. The present study estimated the cost-effectiveness of different sampling frequencies and sample sizes to achieve at least 95% confidence of early detection of P. salmonis at the netpen and farm levels using a validated qPCR test. We developed a stochas- tic model that incorporated variability in test accuracy, within-pen prevalence and sampling costs. Our findings indicated that the current piscirickettsiosis surveillance programme based on risk-based sampling of five moribund or dead fish from 2 to 3 netpens is cost-effective and gives a high probability of detection of P. salmonis in Atlantic salmon farms in Chile at both the netpen and farm levels. Results from this study should incentivize salmon farmers to establish cost-effective strategies for early detection of P. salmonis infection and the application of this approach to other highly infectious diseases.