Northwest Fisheries Science Center

William B. Nilsson - Staff Profile

Intern or Volunteer
Job Title:
Scientist Emeritus


William Nilsson has worked in diverse areas related to fisheries science since 1982. After completion of a Ph. D. in physical chemistry from the University of California at Santa Barbara followed by a two year Postdoctoral appointment in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Washington, he began working at the Center in the Utilization Research Division in 1982. His research concentrated on developing and applying supercritical fluid extraction technology for production of valuable compounds from fish oil. Following a brief effort in the area of protein purification using high performance liquid chromatography and capillary electrophoresis, he joined the Fish Health/Microbiology group in the Resource Enhancement and Utilization Division where his research efforts have been towards the development of new nucleic-acid based molecular assays for the detection and identification of bacterial pathogens of salmonids.

Current Research

Both wild and cultured salmonid species are susceptible to a wide variety of bacterial pathogens. Classically, identification of a bacterial pathogen responsible for disease requires that the pathogen be cultured, a step that is not always possible, followed by application of an arduous series of biochemical tests leading to identification of the species involved. These procedures can require days or even weeks. We have recently reported on a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based universal assay that will permit detection and identification of a bacterial pathogen in salmonid kidney tissue, typically to the species level. This assay requires no bacterial culture and can typically lead to identification in about one day. Very recent work suggests that a modification of this assay may provide a means for distinguishing more virulent strains of the human pathogen Vibrio vulnificus from strains of lower virulence. This finding may lead to molecular assays for screening of shellfish for the presence of potentially harmful strains of this human pathogen.