A New Concept for Rapid Genomic Detection of Fish Disease

In 2019, a WorldFish team, led by Dr. Jerome Delamare-Deboutteville, received a CGIAR Inspire Challenge award worth USD $100,000 to test a new concept for rapid detection and diagnosis of fish disease. The project's cross-functional research team includes experts from the University of Queensland, Australia, Wilderlab, New Zealand, SAF/CEFAS center at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom, GeneSEQ, Malaysia, and Centex at University of Mahidol, Thailand. The proposed approach brings together years of fish pathogen data and combines it with new pathogen DNA sequences from infected fish. Processed using specially-designed software and machine learning tools, the data will feed a cloud-based service that can be used to accurately detect and diagnose a range of fish diseases. Critical information on how to manage the disease will then be sent back to farmers, extension workers, hatcheries, and quarantine officers in near-real time, in a user-friendly format via a smartphone. The team expects the approach will reduce the need for antibiotic treatments and ensure the right treatments are used where necessary; reduce the risk of the subsequent production cycles of fish being infected and prevent the spread of disease between farms. In addition, the system will provide scientists with useful information for vaccine development. If successful, the approach also could be used to rapidly and accurately detect and manage diseases in all farmed animals.