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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Shrimp farming feels viral impact

White spot syndrome virus (WSSV) has a devastating impact on shrimp farming throughout the world, becoming more aggressive as the epidemic spreads, contrary to other viruses like flu that gradually die out. Scientists from Wageningen University in the Netherlands discovered that WSSV evolves when shrimp farming practices are adapted. They hope that greater understanding will allow further control and containment of the disease. The findings were recently published in the journal PLoS ONE.Global shrimp production has tripled over the past decade from 750 000 tonnes in the 1990s to more than 3 billion tonnes in the last 5 years, severely affecting coastal ecosystems and livelihoods. WSSV is a deadly pathogen for shrimp, and has been a major threat to shrimp farming for the last two decades, according to the researchers.The disease is highly lethal and contagious killing shrimps quickly. Outbreaks of WSSV have wiped out within a few days the entire populations of shrimp farms throughout the world. Over time the virus has manifested itself more severely; documented outbreaks in China in 1992 and in Ecuador in 1999 showed a 70% drop in local shrimp production following the outbreaks. The virus has since spread globally and has even been found in wild crustaceans in Europe.In order to discover why WSSV behaves so differently to other viruses, the Wageningen scientists reconstructed the genetic and geographical trajectory of the shrimp virus from the putative ancestral source. They discovered that the fitness of the virus increases over time and the genome shrinks, in a pattern similar to theoretical predictions from evolutionary biology.

Source: European Union

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