Research project to improve oyster disease detection begins

This recently-funded project aims to better understand shellfish disease and develop tools to diagnose and prevent outbreaks.


Earlier this month, Doctors Tim Bean and Tim Regan from the aquaculture team received funding for their proposal on non-invasive diagnostics to prevent the spread of shellfish disease and invasive species. One of the goals of this research is to help develop a new method of testing and diagnosing diseases in oysters and mussels, which will in turn help achieve a higher health status for farmed shellfish in the UK. The project will have a particular focus on Bonamia ostreae, an all-too-familiar disease which afflicts European flat oysters.

This research could potentially be of significant value to global aquaculture, as bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections pose great risk to bivalve shellfish production. For example, in a recent presentation given at the Roslin Institute, PhD student Hannah Farley spoke about how viral diseases such as Bonamia ostreae and oyster herpesvirus (OsHV-1) have had adverse effects on shellfish bred in captivity for decades.

Hannah Farley's presentation diagram shows how diseases have impacted shellfish populations over the last 100 years.
Hannah's timeline shows how disease outbreaks have impacted shellfish growth in the past century. For a full list of references, please see the list at the end of this article.*

The Roslin Institute’s past research on shellfish, such as development of new tools to enable selective breeding for disease resistance, and the chromosome-level genome assembly for Crassostrea gigas released earlier this year, has been welcomed and commended by both fellow researchers and industry leaders.

Dr Tim Bean—a Group Leader and Career Track Fellow at the Roslin Institute whose work specializes in oysters and mussels—spoke about the value and scope of this new undertaking. “Our project will tip the way we currently diagnose diseases that affect oysters on its head – taking a pre-emptive rather than reactive approach,” says Tim. “We are bringing together the right technology with the right people to solve some of the shellfish sector’s biggest health challenges and potentially make significant improvements to oyster health.”

This project is funded by industry partners including the Seafood Innovation Fund and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre and will also allow our researchers to collaborate closely with fellow scientists at Stirling University. The work will span a 15-month period of interesting research combined with significant fieldwork —and we are very much looking forward to sharing our findings.

You can find more information about the project through our October news release.