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Research Project: Penaeid Shrimp Pathogen Surveillance: Critical Support to the Emerging U.S. Shrimp Farming Industry

Location: Aquatic Animal Health Research

Project Number: 6010-32000-027-005-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2019
End Date: Jun 30, 2024

Problem: Commercial penaeid shrimp aquaculture is a $2 billion industry in the Western Hemisphere, with 14 countries producing >200,000 metric tons of shrimp and employing 500,000 people. The industry has expanded steadily within the U.S. and the Americas since the early 1970’s, and current culture efforts for Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) are underway in various regions of the United States; including West Alabama where approximately 250,000 lbs of shrimp are produced annually. The main pathogens of concern that routinely decimate this aquaculture sector comprise viruses, rickettsial-like bacteria, “true bacteria”, protozoans, and fungi. A diverse assortment of metazoan parasites that infect shrimps can be potentially problematic and reduce product quality and consistency. However, viruses are by far the most impactful pathogens associated with large scale shrimp epizootics. These pathogens have also proven to be devastating exotic invasive pathogens that threaten naive shrimp populations lacking innate resistance to infection. Of the 9 crustacean diseases listed by the Office International des Epizooties (OIE; World Animal Organization), 7 of those are viruses and 5 of them are native to the Americas. Shrimp aquaculture diseases have been managed reasonably well with biosecurity (use of specific pathogen-free [SPF] or specific pathogen-resistant [SPR] stocks) but transport of live shrimp or dead shrimp (reprocessed, direct retail commerce, bait) has resulted in the introduction of several viruses with devastating effects, e.g., Taura syndrome virus (TSV) and white spot syndrome virus (WSSV). Pandemics associated with infection by other viruses (infectious hypodermal and hematopoietic necrosis virus [IHHNV], TSV, and WSSV) have been instigated by transfer of infected, live shrimp stocks between countries and between continents. These pandemics have cost billions in lost crops, jobs, and export revenue. Further growth of this aquaculture sector in the U.S. means ensuring that adequate research infrastructure is in place to ensure biosecurity. Yet, the rapid growth of the penaeid shrimp aquaculture industry in the US has outpaced disease diagnostics and surveillance capacity. Opportunity: A clear, urgent, and critical need exists for a penaeid shrimp disease diagnostics core laboratory that serves small and large scale aquaculture producers in the U.S. Auburn Universities’ Aquatic Animal Health Research Group is ideally positioned to contribute to building capacity in this area. This is particularly important as shrimp producers in Alabama, Florida, and Texas have experienced large-scale declines in survival beginning in 2013, which are nearly 40% lower than the mean survival observed over the previous decade in these growing regions.

Auburn University proposes to develop a disease diagnostics core facility that serves the penaeid shrimp aquaculture industry in the U.S. ARS scientists will collaborate with facility directors at School of Fisheries at Auburn University, who will conduct a systematic survey of the pathogens of greatest concern to shrimp farmers. Surveillance will occur over the course of a production cycle from the larval stage to shrimp just prior to harvest. Deliverables include the acquisition and curation of disease-causing microbial isolates and the detailed characterization of their virulence in shrimp in laboratory trials. Advancements in this area will allow for the implementation of a systematic diagnostic surveillance program for OIE pathogens and other pathogens of interest, and to work directly with farmers to advise on biosecurity and best management practices to prevent the spread of shrimp diseases.