The AquaHealth project

The overall aim of AquaHealth is to bring aquaculture closer to a natural aquatic environment. The primary objective of the project is to develop sustainable solutions for health management in European aquaculture via the exploration, characterization and screening of microalgae microbiomes for the production of novel biomolecules that show promising antiviral, antimicrobial, or prebiotic characteristics and large-scale application potential.

Aquaculture plays a major role within the food sector and increasing demands in fish production has to be met with new and sustainable technology, as the capture of wild fish is limited and overfishing threatens marine ecosystems. However, aquaculture systems are facing significant challenges and severe economic losses from infectious diseases caused by viral, bacterial or eukaryotic pathogens [1]. Several diseases of aquaculture fish, like bacterial infections of farmed cod with Francisella or Flavobacterium psychrophilum infection of salmon and trout as well as and viral infections of salmonids are of substantial economic significance for the aquaculture systems, e.g. in Norway [2]. Thus, to ensure in addition to fish health, economic viability and sustainability, an appropriate health management in aquaculture is crucial [3].

Current prevention and treatment of aquaculture related diseases in Europe comprises mainly vaccination and quarantining, though antibiotics are still in use in many other regions of the world, contributing to increased antimicrobial resistance of microorganisms. Vaccination has proven to be efficient for prevention of disease but several diseases cannot yet be prevented by vaccines, or some vaccines have been proven to be inefficient. Furthermore, there are aquatic organisms which cannot be vaccinated due to thelack of an adaptive immune system [4].

Photo: TUHH
Photo: TUHH

AquaHealth builds on the hypothesis that a novel approach to disease treatment in aquaculture can be achieved by exploiting the healthy properties of microalgae and their associated microbiomes. Microalgae are a part of every aquatic environment and play a major role serving as food for many aquatic organisms. Previous studies show that these algae have developed beneficial effects on the health of their consumers, e.g. via antibacterial, antiviral, or antifungal effects. Microalgae are generally not axenic but live in symbiosis with several microorganisms [5]. Currently these microalgae microbiomes have been limited explored and can serve as a promising biodiversity resource.

[1]    G. D. Stentiford, K. Sritunyalucksana, T. W. Flegel, B. A. P. Williams, B. Withyachumnarnkul, O. Itsathitphaisarn, D. Bass, New Paradigms to Help Solve the Global Aquaculture Disease Crisis, PLoS pathogens 13, e1006160 (2017); doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006160.

[2]   The Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Strategy for an Environmentally Sustainable Norwegian Aquaculture Industry; 2009.

[3]   K.V. Rajendran, S. Das, K.K. Vijayan, Health Management in Aquaculture: An Overview, Diagnosis, prevention and control of brackishwater finfish and shellfish diseases (2015).

[4]   Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018: Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. Rome; 2018.

[5]   I. Krohn-Molt, B. Wemheuer, M. Alawi, A. Poehlein, S. Güllert, C. Schmeisser, A. Pommerening-Röser, A. Grundhoff, R. Daniel, D. Hanelt, W. R. Streit, Metagenome survey of a multispecies and alga-associated biofilm revealed key elements of bacterial-algal interactions in photobioreactors, Applied and environmental microbiology 79, 6196–6206 (2013); doi: 10.1128/AEM.01641-13.

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