Scientists of the Roslin Institute, research center of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, are using genome editing technology to prevent Infectious Salmon Anaemia virus in salmon aquaculture.
Salmon farming is worth approximately £1Bn ((€1,1 Bn 1.1 Bn) to the UK economy and supports many rural and coastal communities. However, disease outbreaks have a major negative effect on salmon production and animal welfare.
Infectious salmon anaemia (ISA), also known as ‘salmon flu’, causes severe losses in affected farms. In the UK, farmers are obliged to cull their stock in the event of an outbreak. Vaccination and biosecurity cannot fully prevent outbreaks, so the development of disease resistant salmon strains is a very attractive option, according to the institute.
Selective breeding can improve disease resistance in salmon stocks, but requires time as it takes place over several generations. Genome editing has the potential to rapidly increase the rate at which disease resistant salmon can be produced. Genome editing involves the use of ‘gene scissors’ to precisely cut the genome at a specific location, leading to small-scale, targeted changes in the DNA sequence.
The research team is led by Ross Houston with colleagues of The Roslin Institute, and a team of the University of Aberdeen, who, thanks to a BBSRC Industrial Partnership Award, will apply genome editing technology to investigate genes underlying resistance to the ISA virus.
“Viral disease presents a major threat to sustainable salmon aquaculture, and breeding for disease resistance is a viable goal. This new BBSRC IPA project will take a novel approach to studying and improving resistance to ISA in salmon, by combining the partners’ skills in quantitative genetics, genome editing and disease biology,” project leader Professor Ross Houston said.
“Collaborative research such as this will demonstrate how animal health and welfare of farmed fish and food security could be improved if these methods were adopted by industry.”
The study takes place in collaboration with Benchmark PLC, owners of salmon breeding company SalmoBreed, the Institute of Marine Research (Bergen, Norway), Nofima (As, Norway), INRA (France), Marine Science Scotland (Aberdeen) and Cefas (Weymouth, UK).