Breakthrough in Amoebic Gill Disease Control

Lucy Towers
20 October 2016, at 1:00am

NETHERLANDS - Hendrix Genetics has now discovered a way to control Amoebic Gill Disease (AGD). The company has been selective breeding its Landcatch salmon with increased resistance to AGD. This disease has been a significant problem in Scotland for a number of years and the control measures can save the industry up to 100 million per year.

The detailed measurement and recording of AGD in elite Landcatch families started back in 2013. The first genetic selections were initiated in 2014, and in 2015 started a two year collaboration with the University of Edinburgh (The Roslin Institute) to investigate AGD resistance and apply genomic selection to help tackle the problem. This project is co-funded by Innovate UK and BBSRC.

Alastair Hamilton, Head of Genomics in Hendrix Genetics Aquaculture, said: "We started dedicated challenges of all elite families in closed conditions in 2015, and our initial results showed a moderate to high heritability. The trait is clearly highly polygenic so a textbook case for the application of genomic selection."

Dr Ross Houston, Group Leader in Aquaculture Genetics at The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) and key collaborator on this project said: "Selective breeding for AGD resistance can achieve a reduction in treatment frequency of around 12% per generation, but we know that genomic selection can accelerate the rate of progress significantly. Therefore, our collaboration will have positive financial and animal welfare implications by reducing the potential negative impact of AGD outbreaks."

The financial burden of AGD to UK salmon farmers is difficult to quantify but as a reference it has been a long term problem in Tasmania, where control costs are high (up to $1AUS/kg salmon). With the UK producing 180.000 tonnes of salmon, similar control measures could cost up to £100 million per year to the economy. The disease is now increasing in both Norway and in Chile.

Neil Manchester, Managing Director of Hendrix Genetics Aquaculture, said: "AGD is another challenge that the salmon industry faces, and like the other major threats in various regions such as sea lice/ caligus, PD, and SRS, Hendrix Genetics is pioneering genetic and genomic technologies that will provide sustainable solutions to support the growth of this industry in Chile, UK and Norway."