The disease, known as Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) or Acute Hepatopancreatic Necrosis Disease (AHPND), has caused large-scale die-offs of farm-raised shrimp in several countries in Asia. In August, the disease was also confirmed at shrimp farms in the states of Sonora, Sinaloa and Nayarit in Mexico. Shrimp producers' associations in those states now project a 65 per cent drop in tons of shrimp produced this year compared to 2011 due to the outbreak.
"We hope that a partnership between researchers, industry and government can help develop some holistic solutions to this destructive disease," says John Peppel, senior vice president, Cargill Animal Nutrition, who serves on the Board of Directors of the Global Aquaculture Alliance. "Cargill Animal Nutrition has more than 25 years of experience in aquaculture nutrition and management solutions. We're committed to using that global knowledge and experience to help shrimp producers in Mexico respond to this threat."
During the "Program for EMS/AHPND Workshop in Sonora," renowned shrimp disease pathologist, Prof. Donald Lightner, University of Arizona (UA), US, is scheduled to describe the base diagnosis of the disease. Although EMS has been decimating shrimp farms in Asia since 2009, it was not until this May that Lightner and a team of UA researchers first identified the causative agent behind the disease: a strain of bacterium called Vibrio parahaemolyticus. The breakthrough finding is considered a crucial first step in finding effective ways to combat EMS.
Also at the workshop, health committee representatives from shrimp producers' associations will describe the epidemiology of the disease including how the problem moved from one area to another and mortality rates. Researchers from domestic universities will present their latest findings on how to identify the bacteria using molecular tools. Cargill Animal Nutrition will enable discussions on key challenges in addressing EMS including quality larvae (healthy young animals), farm best management practices, environment, nutrition and aquatic health.
"The workshop's main goals are to understand how EMS is triggered, identify available diagnostic tools for the disease and identify methods to stop the bacteria from spreading any further," says Gerardo Quintero, managing director, Cargill Animal Nutrition, a leading supplier of aquaculture feed in Mexico through the company's Purina® and Provimi® brands.
EMS affects two species of shrimp commonly raised around the world, the Giant Tiger Prawn and Whiteleg Shrimp (Litopanaeus vannamei). The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations says EMS-infected shrimp do not pose a health risk to humans.
However, outbreaks, during which mortality rates have reached as high as 100 percent, are causing devastating production losses. The FAO reports that in China in 2011, farms in Hainan, Guangdong, Fujian and Guangxi suffered almost 80 per cent losses. In Thailand, shrimp production for 2013 is predicted to be down 30 per cent from last year due to EMS. With the spread of the disease to Mexico, shrimp producers' associations there are projecting animal mortality rates of nearly 60 per cent in 2013 at the country's 625 aquaculture farms, a near 40 per cent drop in survivability compared to 2011.