Asian shrimp EMS’s cause still a matter of speculation

Farmed shrimps

When US researcher Donald Lightner identified the Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacterium as the cause of shrimp Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) earlier this year, Asian producers seemed much more relieved.

The disease, that has also hit China and Vietnam, caused a drop in production by 40 percent in Thailand.

In Thailand, Professor Tim Flegal, of the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Biotec), has his own theory to explain the way the bacteria that cause EMS reach the shrimp production chain.

The researcher suggests that parent shrimp are fed with something that brings to life seaworms, which carry the bacteria in their guts. These microorganisms get into the shrimps when eaten, producing the infection.

He emphasizes that the bacterium lives everywhere in the tropical marine environment, only affecting shrimp, not humans.

Nevertheless, there is a more intriguing aspect, in his opinion. Flegal suspects Lightner may have found the solution for the disease, but may be delaying revealing it because his supporting University may want to take advantage of the findings, Deutsche Welle reported.

“We are also working with people in Japan and Taiwan. We hope if we can sequence the whole bacteria genome, then we can find something unique about this bacteria that can be used as a marker. But I think [Lightner] will get there first,” Flegal pointed out.

The researcher believes that if Asian researchers come up with the key to the problem first, they will release it free.

Although the impact has been strong, and many farmers were unwilling to repopulate their ponds, others have chosen to keep on applying more effective checks in place, in an effort to prevent new outbreaks.

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