Vaccines to protect sea bass from scale drop disease among research projects being funded

Different types of fish for sale at Tekka Market on May 17, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Vaccinations do not just protect humans from disease. When deployed in aquaculture, vaccines can also prevent fish from falling ill.

This is what a research team from Singapore aims to do as the nation moves to boost local food production to improve food security.

One of the 12 research projects on sustainable urban food production, which the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) on Monday (April 26) announced it will be funding, aims to develop a vaccine against the scale drop disease virus in Asian sea bass, which has been touted to be the "salmon of the tropics".

The research proposal is an initiative of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and UVaxx, a firm that develops vaccines for use in aquaculture.

Associate Professor Ren Ee Chee, a principal investigator at A*Star's Singapore Immunology Network who is involved in the project, said scale drop disease is one of the most common diseases among sea bass. Infected fish show symptoms such as lethargy and severe scale loss, and the disease frequently results in the loss of 50 to 100 per cent of an infected batch.

He added: "Vaccinated fish can be healthier, grow to a larger size, and can be harvested without significant loss."

UVaxx general manager Markus Schrittweiser said vaccination is key for a sustainable aquaculture industry. "If sea bass are protected against all major threats including scale drop disease, farmers can move on to the next level," he said.

UVaxx has a long history working with the biggest Asian sea bass producers and has a team of experts dedicated to fish health management, vaccine production and disease diagnostics, he added.

"UVaxx is able to translate and transfer high-end science out to the ordinary farmer".

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