From: Mike Ives, SciDevNet, More from this Affiliate
Published May 23, 2013 05:50 AM

What is Causing the Big Shrimp Die-Off in Asian Shrimp Farms?

A cause of a mysterious disease devastating shrimp farms across Asia since 2009 has been tracked back to a strain of a bacteria native to coastlines around the world.

The shrimp early mortality syndrome has perplexed experts for years, in a region where roughly one million people depend on shrimp farming for survival.


So far countries officially reporting the disease — also referred to as acute hepatopancreatic necrosis syndrome — include China, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, but potentially it could affect shrimp farming further afield in Asia, as well as parts of Latin America and Africa.

"To find out the cause of the syndrome gives us a more suitable way to prevent and deal with the problem," said Phan Thi Van, vice director of the government-funded Research Institute for Aquaculture No. 1 in Vietnam, one of the affected countries.

The finding was reported earlier this month by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which partially financed the research on the bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

Donald Lightner, the study's lead researcher and a professor of veterinary science and microbiology at the University of Arizona, said in an FAO statement on 3 May that his team had isolated a pure culture of the bacteria and reproduced it in their Arizona laboratory.

Thai shrimp farmer casting his net image via Shutterstock.

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