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New Genomics Project Aims to Reduce Co-Infection in Atlantic Salmon

11 October 2016

CANADA - Scientists at the Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) are partnering with EWOS/Cargill to develop new therapeutic diets for farmed Atlantic salmon. The initiative could lead to healthier fish and significant savings for the Canadian aquaculture industry.

The C$4.5 million Integrated pathogen management of co-infection in Atlantic salmon project was announced by Parliamentary Secretary for Science, Mr Terry Beech. It is one of six national research collaborations awarded through Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Programme (GAPP).

The project’s scientific team consists of co-leads Dr Matthew Rise, Professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science at Memorial, and Dr Richard Taylor, Senior Research Scientist at Cargill Innovation Center; along with Dr Mark Fast, Associate Professor in Fish Health at the Atlantic Veterinary College, UPEI.

“When there is an outbreak, it isn’t uncommon for fish to be infected simultaneously with multiple pathogens such as sea lice, bacteria and viruses. This can result in severe economic losses for aquaculture farmers,” says Dr Taylor.

“Our functional genomics research will identify molecular mechanisms involved in salmon responses to co-infections. This will lead to the development of better feeds for improved treatments to combat co-infections,” explains Dr Rise.

Relatively little research has been conducted on co-infections in salmon because it requires specialized know-how and a complex infrastructure of test facilities. Dr. Taylor notes that co-infection feeds are novel to the salmon industry and a high priority for EWOS/Cargill.

“The expertise of the research team, along with the collaboration of EWOS/Cargill, Memorial and UPEI are enabling this research to move forward.”

The project could have a significant impact on aquaculture in Atlantic Canada and across the country, says Dr Fast. “This research holds the promise of developing an integrated pathogen management system that could reduce fish losses by as much as 20 per cent overall, and up to 50 per cent for some diseases.”

It is estimated that the use of therapeutic feeds could save the Canadian aquaculture industry up to $57 million annually, while decreasing the use of chemical treatments and minimizing the risk of transmitting pathogens to wild salmon.

Project funding for Integrated pathogen management of co-infection in Atlantic salmon is provided by the Government of Canada via Genome Canada at $1.5 million; EWOS/Cargill at $2.2 million; the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland & Labrador (RDC) at $500,000; Mitacs at $90,000; UPEI at $101,000; and Memorial at $51,000.

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