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Skretting ARC PhD explores interaction between salmonids, sea lice and diet

Skretting ARC\'s new PhD Dr. Rebecca Heavyside has successfully defended her thesis, which explored some possible modes of action for functional microingredients in anti-sea lice feeds. The results generated by Dr. Heavyside’s research indicate that more sustainable and natural functional feeds can be developed as a method of sea lice control in salmonid aquaculture as part of a wider integrated pest management approach. “We want to understand and optimize how microingredients modulate the immune system of salmon to strengthen their natural defenses and counteract the effects of the sea lice.\"

October 26, 2017

Skretting ARC\'s Dr. Rebecca Heavyside successfully defended her PhD thesis at the University of Aberdeen on Monday 25 September. Her thesis, “Dietary modulation of the interaction between salmonid fish and sea lice (Lepeoptheirus salmonis): effects on host attractiveness, skin mucus and immune response,” explored some possible modes of action for functional microingredients in anti-sea lice feeds.

“Several factors have led to the exploration of functional feeds against sea lice, including the growing understanding of the link between diet and immunity and the need for a more integrated pest management approach,” says Heavyside. “Led by growing sea lice resistance to traditional pharmaceuticals and a desire for more natural and sustainable remedies, the feed industry has been exploring the use of natural functional feed ingredients as control mechanisms against these pests.”

Through the course of her research, Dr. Heavyside developed a novel in vitro behavioural bioassay to monitor and assess sea lice activity when exposed to a number of substances. The results stimulated further in vivo studies to determine if the same results could be observed when the substances were added to fish diets. In addition, mucus biochemistry was assessed and distinctions made between different salmonid species.

The final phase of the research explored the impacts of functional diets on the immune system by examining the expression of several key genes. “We want to understand and optimize how microingredients modulate the immune system of salmon to strengthen their natural defenses and counteract the effects of the sea lice,” explained Heavyside.

The results generated by Dr. Heavyside’s research indicate that more sustainable and natural functional feeds can be developed as a method of sea lice control in salmonid aquaculture as part of a wider integrated pest management approach. “There is still a lot of work to be done and but with growing interest in natural microingredients and new ingredients constantly becoming available, I’m sure we will continue to develop products to support the farming industry in tackling sea lice.”

Dr. Heavyside began her PhD in 2013. The research has been completed in collaboration with Skretting ARC and the University of Aberdeen, with support from the Research Council of Norway.

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