Sunday, August 29, 2010

Immunizations For Fish

Most of us are pretty familiar with the concept of immunizations to help safeguard us against disease by giving our bodies a heads up, jump starting our immune system so it will know how to respond when it encounters disease. But now, researchers have successfully immunized fish against the Ich, the white spot disease.

The LA Times reported on the new research, which was presented recently at the American Chemical Society annual meeting. Ich kills 50-100% of fish that it infects, by affecting their breathing and making them lethargic. The disease is characterized by white patches that appear on a fish's body. It is common in farm fish that are grown in close quarters.

The researchers (from the US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service) developed two forms of the vaccine. First, the vaccine was created in the form of a shot, like a typical vaccine administered to a person, but the approach proved difficult to administer to hundreds of small fish. The researchers then developed a bath containing the vaccine that showed a 60% success rate at protecting the fish from Ich.

The researchers still have to overcome the obstacle of how to grow enough of the parasite for the demand (there is a huge volume of fish farms, each containing hundreds to thousands of fish). But for now, the mere fact that researchers have found a way to adapt a human technology for a lesser organism is particularly interesting.

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