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Chilean government-funded project will work with industry partners to investigate impact of sea lice on salmon aquaculture

The two-year project will bring together experts across biotechnology, microbiology, immunology and pathology to study the effect lice have upon the salmon’s skin and gut defenses, the way lice hamper physiological processes, and their ability to withstand other infections. “This basic work is absolutely necessary to develop an efficient nutritional strategy to mitigate the impact of sea lice.”

June 15, 2016

A new research project will investigate the issue of sea lice infestation in salmon production. The project, led by Plymouth University and the Universidad de Chile and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Chilean government (CONICYT), will collaborate with industry partners including Lallemand Animal Nutrition.

Sea lice infestation is a major factor limiting growth in the global salmonid aquaculture sector. Economic losses associated with infections cost the Chilean aquaculture industry in excess of EUR 113 million per year, and it represents a major risk for global food security. The two-year project will bring together experts across biotechnology, microbiology, immunology and pathology to study the effect lice have upon the salmon’s skin and gut defenses, the way lice hamper physiological processes and their ability to withstand other infections.

The researchers will then look at the efficacy of dietary supplements on the fish’s immune system, the microbes on the skin and salmon’s ability to develop resistance to sea lice infestation — as well as investigating the impact of dietary supplements upon the lice. These findings will then be validated on a commercial farming scale to help inform suitable future treatment strategies for aquaculture to improve the salmon’s resistance to infestation.

Dr. Mathieu Castex, R&D Director for Lallemand Animal Nutrition, commented: “Intestinal health and digestive microbiota management are our main drivers for the last 20 years. When it comes to aquaculture, it appeared natural to look beyond the intestine and investigate further the link with other mucosal surfaces (skin and gills in particular). This project is a great opportunity to progress in this field, it will uncover some triggering factors and biomarkers (specifically microbial and molecular biomarkers) linked to both skin and intestinal mucosal changes. Finally, efforts will be dedicated to establish the link with subsequent phenotypic characteristics associated to lice infestation.

This basic work is absolutely necessary to develop an efficient nutritional strategy to mitigate the impact of sea lice. This project combines fundamental and applied objectives, which are what we like at Lallemand, and this matches with our development strategy: ‘science lead, field supported’ ”.

Dr. Jaime Romero, from Universidad de Chile, explains: “Our main goal is to explore the relationship between mucosal health, diet and microbiota in salmon, with knowledge then being transferred to other aquaculture species in the North African/Middle Eastern aquaculture sectors, including sea breams, European/Asian sea basses, mullets and groupers.”

Learn more on the project website.

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