A new £300,000 study involving the University of Stirling researchers and the Devon-based Denis Brinicombe Group, which manufactures feed products for the ruminant and equestrian markets, is aiming to explore how certain feed ingredients can reduce infections in farmed fish. The 3-year project aims at helping combat resistance to existing salmon delousing treatments and discovering how novel feed ingredients can substantially improve aquatic animal health and reduce dependence upon medicinal and other non-medicinal treatments.
The team will test modified aquaculture diets that include Brinicombe’s patented bioactive compound premix – derived from natural feed sources – and see if there is a positive impact on the health of farmed fish by reducing infection rates, survival and reproductive output of sea lice.
Sea lice infections can adversely affect farmed fish performance by reducing appetite and growth, and compromising the animal’s immune responses, potentially leading to secondary infections. Sea lice infections have an adverse effect on productivity and animal welfare and may also lead to wider environmental impacts.
Keith Greig, Managing Director of Brinicombe, believes that the diet-based approach to pest management could also prove effective in combating aquaculture parasites other than sea lice. “We have used our unique anti-parasitic technology for several years with good success in large animals globally and have had recent breakthroughs in the poultry sector, resulting in farms reducing their reliance on a medicated approach to parasite control,” Greig said.
Greig has already seen encouraging results in preliminary aquatic trials on monogeneans, confirming that their technology has the potential to be transferrable between fish host species and target parasites. “This project comes at an exciting time for our business and, if we can establish that the technology is transferable fully to the aquaculture market, it could be transformational for an industry that is battling an increasing parasitic population as seas warm, along with the on-going dilemma of antimicrobial resistance,” said Greig.
Principal Investigator, Armin Sturm, Senior Lecturer at the IoA, said that “this project will allow us to assess the effectiveness of specific feed ingredients in preventing sea lice infections. While some of the veterinary drugs used to control sea lice can affect other marine organisms and may accumulate in marine sediments, the novel product tested here is non-toxic and short-lived in the environment.”
The project is funded by the Denis Brinicombe Group, Innovate UK, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership.