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Breakthrough in Amoebic Gill Disease Control

Hendrix Genetics in collaboration with researchers at The Roslin Institute use genomic selection to help breed salmon with increased resistance to this potentially fatal disease.

25 October 2016

Ross Houston

Amoebic Gill Disease (AGD) has been a long term problem for salmon farmers in Tasmania and has become a significant problem in Scotland and Norway. In the UK, it has been estimated that measures to control the disease could cost up to £100 million per year to the economy.

As part of a project co-funded by Innovate UK and BBSRC, researchers at Hendrix Genetics and The Roslin Institute have been investigating AGD resistance and applying genomic selection to help tackle the disease.

Alastair Hamilton, Head of Genomics in Hendrix Genetics Aquaculture BV, introduced standard sampling collection for both genetic and immunological analysis and has now implemented genomic selection for resistance. Hamilton said, ‘We started dedicated challenges of all elite families in closed conditions in 2015, and our initial results showed a moderate to high heritability. The trait is clearly highly polygenic so a textbook case for the application of genomic selection’.

Selective breeding for AGD resistance has been underway for several generations in Australia, where a reduction in treatment frequency of around 12% per generation has been achievable. Our research has shown that genomic selection will markedly improve the rate of genetic progress in selective breeding for disease resistance compared to family based approaches. Therefore, our collaboration will have positive financial and animal welfare implications by reducing the potential negative impact of AGD outbreak.

Dr Ross HoustonGroup Leader in Aquaculture Genetics at The Roslin Insititute

The Roslin Institute is also investigating the biology underlying genetic resistance to AGD in salmon, through a recently awarded Royal Society Newton International Fellowship. This prestigious fellowship was awarded to Dr Diego Robledo, who will work in Dr Houston’s lab to understand the difference in patterns of gene expression between AGD resistant and AGD susceptible salmon.

Neil Manchester, managing director of Hendrix Genetics Aquaculture BV, said, ‘AGD is another challenge that the salmon industry faces. Hendrix Genetics is pioneering genetic and genomic technologies that will provide sustainable solutions to support the growth of this industry in Chile, UK and Norway.