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Collaboration Develops, Patents Fish Hatchery Vaccine

Redfish sockeye salmon (NOAA)


A team of researchers from University of Idaho in Moscow, Clear Springs Foods Inc. in Buhl, Idaho, and the Agricultural Research Service of USDA, have developed a coldwater disease (CWD) vaccine. CWD is a bacterial disease caused by Flavobacterium psychrophilum, and results in a lethal infection causing losses of hatchery-reared salmonids — e.g., salmon, trout, and whitefish — worldwide.

The disease is regarded as the No. 1 problem for Idaho’s trout industry, resulting in $9-10 million annual losses and up to a 30 percent reduction in yield. CWD is also a problem at hatcheries rearing fish for sport or restoration, and although present in the wild, stress in the hatchery environment may induce disease outbreaks.

University of Idaho fisheries scientist Ken Cain, one of the team members, says that most vaccines work using killed bacteria, but CWD only responds to live bacteria. Thus he and his colleagues developed a strain of the live Flavobacterium psychrophilum bacterium, which works as an injection or as an immersion vaccine. Cain adds, “This is the first time we have been able to show that immersing fish into an experimental CWD vaccine will provide disease protection.”

The vaccine was recently patented by the University of Idaho and is being tested in field trials at northwest hatcheries. If the field trials prove successful, the company Aquatic Life Sciences will have first option to license the patent from the university and commercialize the vaccine.

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