Using PCR to fight fatal shrimp disease

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Using PCR to fight fatal shrimp disease

A team of researchers in Taiwan and Thailand has worked together to create a PCR protocol to detect early mortality syndrome (EMS) of shrimp, an infectious disease that devastates newly-stocked populations of cultured shrimp.

PCR shrimp

Early mortality syndrome of shrimp, also known as acute hepatopancreatic necrosis syndrome (AHPNS), can kill up to 100% of newly-stocked shrimp, which has a huge impact on shrimp farmers in China, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, affecting both small and commercial producers. EMS, first reported in 2009, causes annual losses exceeding $1 billion.

The researchers  from National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) worked with Tim Flegel of the Center of Excellence for Shrimp Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (Centex Shrimp) in Thailan to create a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based detection method.

The bacteria causing AHPND is a strain of Vibrio parahaemolyticus that has unique plasmids not present in non-pathogenic V parahaemolyticus. The researchers used a whole-genome sequencing strategy to identify the plasmids as targets for detection, and then designed two pairs of primers (AP1 and AP2) for to create the PCR assay for rapid detection.

The research team decided to release detailed information on the sequences, primers and protocols of the PCR-based detection method for free to try to help to fight the current severe and widespread outbreaks of this infection. Quick detection of EMS will be vital to the shrimp-producing industry, and to the wider aquaculture and seafood market.

“Release of this critical information will assist interested stakeholders to develop measures to reduce the risk of AHPND outbreaks,” says Chu-Fang Lo, Dean of the College of Life Sciences at NCKU.

While the xxpress PCR thermal cycler hasn’t been used as part of this project, its speed and small footprint would make it ideal for carrying out PCR studies onsite.


Suzanne Elvidge is a freelance science, biopharma, business and health writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has written for a range of online and print publications including FierceBiomarkers, FierceDrugDelivery, European Life Science, the Journal of Life Sciences (now the Burrill Report), In Vivo, Life Science Leader, Nature Biotechnology, New Scientist, PR Week and Start-Up. She specialises in writing on pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, healthcare, science, lifestyle and green living, but can write on any topic given enough tea and chocolate biscuits. She lives just beyond the neck end of nowhere in the Peak District with her second-hand bookseller husband and two second-hand cats.

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