Applying genetic technologies to combat infectious diseases in aquaculture



Robinson NA, Robledo D, Sveen L, Ruiz Daniels R, Krasnov A, Coates A, Jin YH, Barrett LT, Lillehammer M, Kettunen AH, Phillips BL, Dempster T, Doeschl-Wilson A, Samsing F & Difford G (2023) Applying genetic technologies to combat infectious diseases in aquaculture. Reviews in Aquaculture, 15 (2), pp. 491-535.

Disease and parasitism cause major welfare, environmental and economic concerns for global aquaculture. In this review, we examine the status and potential of technologies that exploit genetic variation in host resistance to tackle this problem. We argue that there is an urgent need to improve understanding of the genetic mechanisms involved, leading to the development of tools that can be applied to boost host resistance and reduce the disease burden. We draw on two pressing global disease problems as case studies—sea lice infestations in salmonids and white spot syndrome in shrimp. We review how the latest genetic technologies can be capitalised upon to determine the mechanisms underlying inter- and intra-species variation in pathogen/parasite resistance, and how the derived knowledge could be applied to boost disease resistance using selective breeding, gene editing and/or with targeted feed treatments and vaccines. Gene editing brings novel opportunities, but also implementation and dissemination challenges, and necessitates new protocols to integrate the technology into aquaculture breeding programmes. There is also an ongoing need to minimise risks of disease agents evolving to overcome genetic improvements to host resistance, and insights from epidemiological and evolutionary models of pathogen infestation in wild and cultured host populations are explored. Ethical issues around the different approaches for achieving genetic resistance are discussed. Application of genetic technologies and approaches has potential to improve fundamental knowledge of mechanisms affecting genetic resistance and provide effective pathways for implementation that could lead to more resistant aquaculture stocks, transforming global aquaculture.

gene editing; genomic selection; host resistance; sea lice; transcriptomics; white-spot syndrome virus

Additional authors: Sarah Salisbury, Bjarne Gjerde, John-Erik Haugen, Erik Burgerhout, Binyam S. Dagnachew, Dominic Kurian, Mark D. Fast, Morten Rye, Marcela Salazar, James E. Bron, Sean J. Monaghan, Celeste Jacq, Mike Birkett, Howard I. Browman, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, David M. Fields, Erik Selander, Samantha Bui, Anna Sonesson, Stanko Skugor, Tone-Kari Knutsdatter Østbye, Ross D. Houston

Reviews in Aquaculture: Volume 15, Issue 2

FundersThe Norwegian Seafood Research Fund
Publication date31/03/2023
Publication date online30/09/2022
Date accepted by journal16/08/2023

People (1)


Dr Rose Ruiz Daniels

Dr Rose Ruiz Daniels

Lecturer in Aquaculture Genomics, Institute of Aquaculture