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Scottish researchers claim progress in combatting Amoebic Gill Disease


January 16, 2017
By Colin Ley

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Research findings in Scotland indicate that genomic selection will “markedly improve” the rate of genetic progress in selective breeding to promote resistance in salmon stocks to Amoebic Gill Disease (AGD).

A highly problematic and costly condition, AGD is currently the focus of joint research by specialists at Hendrix Genetics and scientists at Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, who are investigating AGD resistance and the application of genomic selection to help tackle the disease.

“Selective breeding for AGD resistance has been underway for several generations in Australia, where a reduction in treatment frequency of around 12% per generation has been achievable,” said Dr Ross Houston, Group Leader in Aquaculture Genetics at the Roslin Institute.

“Our research has shown that genomic selection will markedly improve the rate of genetic progress in selective breeding for disease resistance compared to family-based approaches. Our collaboration, therefore, will have positive financial and animal welfare implications by reducing the potential negative impact of AGD outbreaks.”

Alastair Hamilton, Head of Genomics at Hendrix Genetics Aquaculture, Stirling, who has also been working on genomic selection for AGD resistance, added: “We started dedicated challenges of all elite families in closed conditions in 2015, and our initial results showed a moderate to high heritability. The trait is clearly highly polygenic so a textbook case for the application of genomic selection.”

The joint research is co-funded by Innovate UK and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), whose commitment to find fresh solutions for AGD is driven by current industry estimates that controlling the disease in the UK could cost up to £100 million a year.

  – Colin Ley