Sea lice vaccine project wins £1.5 million in funding from Scottish government

Editorial Staff

The project is part of the Scottish Government’s goal to double the value of Atlantic salmon production by 2030.

A team of scientists led by the Moredun Research Institute has secured £1.5 million in funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to develop an oral vaccine aimed at combatting salmon lice in farmed Atlantic salmon.

The prevalence of salmon lice poses significant challenges to the aquaculture industry, impacting fish health and welfare. The ectoparasite, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, feeds on farmed Atlantic salmon, and there is currently no effective commercial vaccine available.

Climate change has led to an increase in salmon louse prevalence, resulting in an estimated annual economic impact of more than $1 billion on the industry.

The project seeks to create a practical, safe, and eco-friendly solution to address this issue, aligning with the Scottish Government’s goal to double the value of Atlantic salmon production by 2030.

Traditional methods of administering salmon lice vaccines through injection have shown limited success. Instead, the interdisciplinary team is developing an oral vaccine designed to trigger an effective immune response within the salmon’s skin during the parasitic phase of the salmon louse’s life cycle.

The researchers will use advanced techniques, including reverse vaccinology (RV) and artificial intelligence (AI) through the EpitoPredikt platform, to identify key biological targets within the salmon louse.

These targets will help predict which candidate antigens can stimulate the appropriate immune response in the fish. The selected candidates will be fused together and expressed as a mosaic antigen using the EpitoGen scaffold technology, forming the basis of the vaccine.

Dr Kim Thompson from Moredun Research Institute said: “The development of an innovative salmon louse vaccine represents a groundbreaking approach in the aquaculture industry.”

“This vaccine, designed to enhance both systemic and mucosal immune responses in Atlantic salmon, promises not only to bolster the health and welfare of the fish but also to support the sustainable expansion of the Atlantic salmon industry.”

Formed by farmers in 1920, The Moredun Foundation is dedicated to improving the understanding, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases by developing a variety of outreach programmes for farmers, vets and the general public.


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