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February 9, 2014

United States

Arizona—Update on the New Test Kit for EMS




Linda Nunan, a University of Arizona (UA) assistant staff scientist, and Dr. Donald Lightner, a University of Arizona professor of animal and comparative biomedical sciences, identified the pathogen that causes early mortality syndrome (EMS) in shrimp and have developed a better, cheaper, faster way of testing for it.  The testing technology has been licensed to GeneReach Biotechnology in Taiwan.


“Basically, the way you look for any new or old disease in shrimp is by testing diagnostically,” Nunan said, “and one of the fastest ways of doing that is by using polymerase chain reaction,” a widely practiced method for detecting diseases in different DNA sequences.  The new diagnostic test targets the specific agent that causes early mortality syndrome, which kills shrimp right after they are stocked.  The test will allow shrimp farmers to quickly identify shrimp infected with the disease.


Lightner and colleagues at UA have developed several tests in the past for shrimp viruses, and they promote the idea of “detect and slaughter” as a solution, rather than treating shrimp with antibiotics.


Lightner said, “We had hoped from the outset that (GeneReach) would license the technology.  We’ve been working with them for more than ten years and have had a very good relationship with them.”  Nunan said, GeneReach “has a very good track record of developing kits for detection of shrimp pathogens, and they’re known worldwide.”


Once Nunan and Lightner beta-test the kits, they will be marketed very fast because there’s a huge demand for them.  She and Lightner think the kits will be available by the end of February 2014.


“Because polymerase chain reaction has become pretty much the classic test for all shrimp viruses and bacterial diseases of note, labs around the world are set up to run this test,” said Nunan.


Until now, the only way to detect early mortality syndrome was through the use of histology, which is how Lightner first described the disease in 2012.  Nunan said histology is a lot more difficult because it involves looking at cellular changes within the tissue of a specimen.  It also requires more processing equipment and takes longer to perform.  The new test will be less expensive and produce results in 24 hours or less.


Lightner said that when EMS hit Mexico in the spring of 2013, it resulted in mortalities of around 80 percent.  “When they restocked in July and tried again, it was even worse, he said.”


Shrimp News: The new test kit for the early mortality syndrome will be demonstrated at the EMS Symposium in Panama on February 14 and 15, 2014.


Information: Linda Nunan, Assistant Staff Scientist, Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology, The University of Arizona, Building 90, Room 102,1117 East Lowell Street, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA (phone 1-520-621-4438, email, webpage


Information: Donald V. Lightner, Professor, Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology, The University of Arizona, Building 90, Room 102,1117 East Lowell Street, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA (phone 1-520-621-4438, fax 1-520-621-4899, email, webpage


Information: Dr. Pei-Yu Alison Lee, GeneReach Biotechnology Corp., No. 19, Keyuan 2nd Road, Central Taiwan Science Park, Taichung, 407 Taiwan (phone 886-4-24639869, fax 886-4-24638255, email


Source: 1. Arizona Star.  UA Researchers Devise Test to Aid Shrimp Farmers.  Drew McCullough.  Picture Credit: Mike Christy.  February 8, 2014.  2. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, February 9, 2014.

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