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Skretting and Proteon to trial bacteriophages for aquaculture

Skretting and Proteon Pharmaceuticals are joining forces to develop bacteriophage technology for aquaculture.

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
29 January 2021, at 8:30am

Skretting and Proteon Pharmaceuticals are co-developing products using bacteriophages to support fish farmers as part of a holistic health strategy.

The companies will work in a parallel R&D pipeline for the project to target pathogenic bacteria. With bacterial challenges being some of the most prevalent in aquaculture worldwide, the products will be a welcome addition to the holistic health toolbox for farmers.

Computer generated image of a bacteriophage infecting a bacterial cell
Bacteriophages are viruses that can infect specific types of bacteria

© Dr Subhashini

Part of integrated health management

The companies predict that the technology will become a valuable component of integrated management strategies on-farm with both feed and water applications under investigation.

Matthew Tebeau, COO at Proteon Pharmaceuticals says, “Phages are a part of the natural microecosystem. Each target specific bacteria in order to keep the healthy balance in nature. Bacteriophages have been known for over 100 years, however, using phage technology for aquaculture is an exciting development. With Proteon’s expertise in phage development and Skretting’s expertise in health, we will work together to identify phages that will target specific bacteria, which we hope will significantly reduce these health challenges for farmers.”

In the initial phases of the project, Skretting will isolate the most prevalent specific strains of bacteria, while Proteon will determine the most effective complementary groups of phages. Skretting Aquaculture Research Centre (ARC) researchers will then examine the efficacy of the phages during challenge trials.

What is phage technology?

Phages are the most numerous and oldest organisms on the planet. They are organic, natural and omnipresent in the environment. A critical part of the global microbiome, phages naturally protect animals and humans from bacteria. Controlled delivery of phages, using precision biological tools promises to reduce antibiotic usage, overcoming the growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria, as well as to increase sustainability in aqua and agriculture and to improve human health.

Proteon Pharmaceuticals has been developing their phage-based products for over 10 years. They have been tested in Europe and Asia and proven in terms of efficacy and stability.

“Products based on bacteriophages are an effective tool for fighting bacterial diseases in farmed fish and shrimp, as they can eliminate only the specific pathogenic bacteria while not damaging the animal’s microbiome,” says Truls Dahl, Business Developer at Skretting.

The big picture

The project timeline is around 4-5 years, but both Skretting and Proteon Pharmaceuticals are confident that the resultant health solutions are worth the wait. With anti-microbial resistance (AMR) still looming as a serious threat facing the global population, natural health strategies are increasingly important for food producing industries.

“Having alternatives to antibiotics to support the health of fish and shrimp is a very exciting part of the development,” continues Dahl. “Vaccines, antibiotics and indeed phage technologies have been around for a long time, but the use of phages is still quite new for aquaculture.”

“It’s not every day you introduce a new techonology to improve animal health,” adds Therese Log Bergjord, Skretting CEO. “This is a milestone, and highlights our commitment to continue to invest in health research for the sustainability of the aquaculture industry as a whole.”