This company wants to eliminate bacterial kidney disease in salmon

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Hendrix Genetics hope to develop BKD resistant fish.

The global multi-species animal genetics company has been awarded funding to develop Bacterial Kidney Disease (BKD) resistant Atlantic salmon.

Hendrix Genetics been working on the projects first objective, looking for families of fish resistant to Bacterial Kidney Disease (BKD) in southern Chile’s Magallanes regions. They then aim to grow a new disease-resistant generation of fish, that wont need any antibiotics.

BKD may be transmitted horizontally, through contact with infected fish or water, and vertically, from infected broodstock eggs PHOTO CEFAS

There is no effective treatment for BKD, apart from good biosecurity and avoidance of infection as an effective means of controlling the disease, and it’s known to cause up to 40% mortality in Atlantic salmon. When asked how confident they were, that they could eliminate the disease, Hendrix Genetics general manager, Rodrigo Torrijo, told SalmonBusiness:

“Genetics progress BKD resistance will be one of several tools needed to eliminate BKD from salmon production. Good production practices, both in fresh water and sea water, use of vaccines, and biosecurity procedures among others, are also necessary. But the good thing about genetics is when you achieve progress, it’s permanent and long-term.”

“But the good thing about genetics is when you achieve progress, it’s permanent and long-term” Hendrix Genetics Chile general manager, Rodrigo Torrijo

Natural resistance
While it could save the industry a lot of of funds, we asked Mr Torrijo is there were any concerns or knock-on effects that disease- resistant Atlantic salmon could have on the environment?

“Not really,” he said, “what we do is use quantitative genetics powered by genomic selection in order to select “families” that carry natural resistance to the disease, we are not altering the DNA of salmon or anything like that. The offspring of these families will be used for our customers specially in the region of Magallanes where, given its colder temperatures, BKD is more relevant.”

What’s the interest from the industry?

“We have had a lot of interest, specially from salmon farmers in our most southern region, Magallanes. The bacteria that causes BKD, feels more comfortable in cold waters. The farmers are trying to establish “antibiotic-free” production in this region given its extremely good conditions to grow salmon, so the bacteria is a direct threat to them. We believe that we can contribute with our science and technology to help them achieve this important goal.”

Mr Torrijo and the Hendrix Genetics team hope to achieve significant progress in the next 24 months.