UA Researchers Develop Test to Detect Fatal Shrimp Disease ; Farmers Are Losing Huge Populations, Costing Consumers

By McCullough, Drew | AZ Daily Star, February 9, 2014 | Go to article overview

UA Researchers Develop Test to Detect Fatal Shrimp Disease ; Farmers Are Losing Huge Populations, Costing Consumers


McCullough, Drew, AZ Daily Star


A bacterial disease called "early mortality syndrome" has become a multibillion-dollar problem for the global shrimp-farming industry in the last year or so.

Shrimp are dying, production is down and prices are up.

That could soon change, thanks to a new diagnostic test developed by Linda Nunan, a University of Arizona assistant staff scientist, and Don Lightner, a UA professor of animal and comparative biomedical sciences.

The UA researchers, who identified the pathogen that caused the disease, have now developed a better, cheaper, faster way of testing for it, and have licensed the technique.

"Basically, the way you look for any new or old disease in shrimp is by testing diagnostically," Nunan said, "and one of the fastest ways of doing that is by using polymerase chain reaction," a widely practiced method for detecting diseases in different DNA sequences.

Lightner and Nunan's diagnostic test targets the specific agent that causes early mortality syndrome, which kills shrimp right after they are stocked, Nunan said. It will allow shrimp farmers to quickly identify shrimp infected with the disease, she said.

Lightner and colleagues at the UA have developed several tests in the past for shrimp viruses, and promote the idea of "detect and slaughter" as a solution, rather than treating shrimp with antibiotics, he said.

Shrimp quickly become antibiotic-resistant, and the United States, Europe and Japan will reject imported shrimp if they have been treated with certain antibiotics, he said.

Lightner said he and Nunan recently teamed up with GeneReach Biotechnology in Taiwan to commercialize the test in kit form.

"We had hoped from the outset that (GeneReach) would get the technology," he said. "We've been working with them for more than 10 years and have had a very good relationship with them."

GeneReach "has a very good track record of developing kits for detection of shrimp pathogens, and they're known worldwide," Nunan said.

Once Nunan and Lightner have beta-tested the kits, they "will be marketed very fast because there's a huge demand for it," Nunan said. …

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