Researchers are helping shellfish growers take a proactive approach to spotting disease Photo: SAICResearchers are helping shellfish growers take a proactive approach to spotting disease Photo: SAIC

Aquaculture researchers in Scotland are developing a PCR test that will help detect a range of diseases and biofouling species affecting oysters and mussels.

With nearly £200,000 of funding from the Seafood Innovation Fund and the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre, the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute will build a system that tests for Bonamia ostreae – a common and potentially fatal disease that is difficult to detect and, once present at a site, can not be eradicated.

“Our project will tip the way we currently diagnose diseases that affect oysters on its head – taking a pre-emptive rather than reactive approach,” commented Dr Tim Bean, career track fellow at the Roslin Institute.

The testing system will also detect the presence of oyster herpes virus and vibrio bacteria, along with biofouling species such as tube worms. It builds on a feasibility study conducted earlier this year, which successfully delivered a proof of concept.

“This rapid, cheap and simple process will allow farmers and restoration practitioners to make more informed decisions about whether to move animals, optimising biofouling treatments and site selection,” said Dr Bean.

The 15 month project is supported by industry and the research sector, including the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers, the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture and rewilding organisations such as Blue Marine Foundation.

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