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Scottish researchers look to take pro-active approach in mitigating shellfish diseases


October 8, 2021
By Hatchery International Staff

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Scottish aquaculture researchers are looking for a way to help detect the presence of a range of diseases and biofouling species impacting oysters and mussels, by developing a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method. The project could lead to a significant boost in the health and wellbeing of both species of shellfish.

With funding of nearly £200,000 (US $272,875), the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute looks to build a validated testing system, which will allow oyster producers to proactively test for the common, yet potentially fatal Bonamia ostreae disease, which is otherwise difficult to detect. The testing system will further detect the presence of oyster herpes virus and Vibrio bacteria, as well as biofouling species including tube worms. This research builds on a feasibility study that was conducted earlier in 2021, which was reported to successfully deliver a proof of concept.

“Our project will tip the way we currently diagnose diseases that affect oysters on its head, taking a pre-emptive rather than reactive approach” said Tim Bean, career track fellow at the Roslin Institute.

“The development and use of a proactive testing system will benefit shellfish growers tremendously. Tube worm casts, while benign in terms of mussel quality, are difficult to remove and can interfere with packaging and presentation,” explained Nick Lake, CEO of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers, a supporting organization of the research project. “Equally, Scotland has retained a disease-free status for oyster herpes virus, which causes losses of young shellfish. With improved detection methods, we would continue to seek to sustain this position, giving us advantages over shellfish production in surrounding countries. The industry is pleased to support this further development of techniques that will support our climate change resilience in the coming years.”

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