Biotech firm developing test for early EMS detection at shrimp farms

Published on
June 16, 2017

A Japanese biotech company is teaming with researchers at Tohoku University to develop a test for shrimp that can detect the virus responsible for early mortality syndrome (EMS) at an early stage.

Tohoku Bio-Array, also known as TBT Co. Ltd., and Tohoku University, both of Sendai City, will jointly develop a genetic bio-assay kit to allow early discovery of infectious diseases in cultured shrimp, the Nippon Keizai Shimbun reported on 5 June. The test’s primary purpose is to quickly detect on-site at shrimp ponds. 

To use the kit, shrimp are mashed and mixed and put through a tagged primer polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocol to amplify the virus’s genes. PCR is a technique to replicate a few copies of a segment of DNA, to produce thousands (or millions) of copies. Then, a test strip – a membrane with a DNA sequence printed on it – is immersed in the solution, and a blue line appears if the test is positive, and can be visually confirmed. Tests for three or four diseases, including EMS, could be included on a single test strip.

A small processing machine is necessary for gene amplification, but the price per exam is expected to be only around USD 5 to 10 (EUR 4.50 to 9). The diagnosis can be made in about an hour, which would give farmers a chance to harvest a pond early, or to stop new stocking new ponds, in order to cut losses, in case of a positive result.

Such genetic testing is not new. It can already be performed at a slightly higher cost than the new tests being developed. However, the conventional method is to ship samples to a laboratory for testing and farmers must wait at least a few days for the result.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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