A partnership between two of the most progressive aquaculture companies in Scotland has borne fruit with the successful development of an innovative new DNA-based method of detecting the pathogen Bonamia in European Flat Oysters. Orkney Shellfish Hatchery is a state-of-the-art aquaculture hatchery specialising in premium, disease free shellfish products for aquaculture and restoration projects. The Xelect team are based in custom built laboratories in St Andrews and are a leading independent aquaculture genetics provider. Xelect manage broodstock and genetic improvement programmes for major aquaculture producers all around the world.
Nik Sachlikidis from the Cadman Capital Group, owners of Orkney Shellfish Hatchery, commented: “This is another demonstration of our commitment to using science backed, cutting-edge technology to provide the highest possible standard of product. We know that our oysters are exceptional, and now we can also demonstrate that they’re disease free too. We’re continually looking at new ways to improve our native oyster spat product, and to set new standards for industry best practice in this area. Xelect have done a great job of working hand-in-hand with our team to solve some key issues facing the Native Oyster hatcheries and ensuring our broodstock are Bonamia free.”
Bonamia ostreae is a major problem for many wild Native Oyster populations and is linked to the major decline in abundance throughout their range. Bonamia testing is widely available but is typically ‘destructive’ – meaning that the oyster is damaged or killed, limiting the ability of the hatcheries to identify and then utilise disease-free broodstock for larval production. Orkney Shellfish Hatchery can now comprehensively ensure the Bonamia-free status of each individual incoming Native Oyster broodstock, by using a non-destructive testing method. The outcomes are a much higher degree of hatchery biosecurity and wider options for Native Oyster broodstock sourcing.
Xelect used a tried and tested method known as a Taqman Assay but adapted it to the specific challenge of testing for the presence of the pathogen from a filtered water sample – a technique called environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis.
Dr Paolo Ruggeri from Xelect oversaw the analysis. “Bivalves like the flat oyster filter large volumes of water every day, and in the process shed tiny amounts of their own DNA, and the DNA of any parasite they are carrying. Using a highly sensitive DNA test we can sample the waters the oysters live in to identify the presence of the pathogen. It’s an extremely cost effective and humane approach, and the oysters don’t even need to leave their hatchery”.
Xelect’s Operations Director, Dr Tom Ashton, added “Our customers are spread all around the globe, so it’s been a great pleasure to work with such an innovative customer based so close to home. Orkney Shellfish Hatchery came to us with a challenge, and the team always love breaking new ground”.
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