New vaccine concept to eradicate dreaded bacterial disease in fish – University of Copenhagen

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23 March 2017

New vaccine concept to eradicate dreaded bacterial disease in fish

Vaccines

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have developed a new type of vaccine in collaboration with a Danish biotech company to participate in eradicating the unpleasant bacterial disease furunculosis amongst both wild and farmed sea trout. The vaccine was developed on the basis of artificial intelligence and laboratory-produced proteins for activating the immune system of the fish.

From time to time, wild sea trout near the Danish coasts and fjords can be struck by the unpleasant bacterial disease furunculosis. This disease prevents the fish from thriving and causes boils, bad skin wounds and in the worst case fish death, and is very contagious.

"It has turned out that our new type of vaccine provides trout with a pretty good furunculosis protection. The concept is called artificial intelligence and recombinant proteins. Through screening of the bacterium's genome with a special computer programme based on artificial intelligence, we have discovered that some of its proteins in pure form are particularly good at activating the immune response of the fish

Professor Kurt Buchmann

Today there are vaccines against this dreaded fish disease, but the existing vaccines do not provide complete protection, and may cause adverse effects. This is because the vaccine is based on a solution of killed bacteria mixed with mineral oils and other things, which can lead to organ adhesion in the abdominal cavity of the fish. However, Danish researchers have now developed a new type of vaccine where the immune system of the fish is activated by means of a new concept.

"It has turned out that our new type of vaccine provides trout with a pretty good furunculosis protection. The concept is called artificial intelligence and recombinant proteins. Through screening of the bacterium's genome with a special computer programme based on artificial intelligence, we have discovered that some of its proteins in pure form are particularly good at activating the immune response of the fish," says Professor Kurt Buchmann, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences.

Good news for fish farms as well as wild fish
The development of the new vaccine concept was conducted in collaboration with the Copenhagen-based biotech company Evaxion. The idea of the new concept is to screen the genome of the bacterium that causes the disease and identify the proteins that can activate the immune response of the fish. The genes for the proteins of interest were then inserted into coliform bacteria, which subsequently and willingly began to produce the furunculosis proteins. These were then purified and added to the trial vaccine.

It turned out that when the vaccine was injected into the fish, even in tiny quantities, the immune system of the fish was activated to such an extent that an otherwise lethal exposure of the fish to the furunculosis bacterium did not cause any disease.

There is a long way from the laboratory at Frederiksberg Campus to the world market for vaccines, but a further development of such a vaccine bodes well for the Danish fish, not just the farmed ones, but also some of the wild ones in nature. When they were very young, many of the shiny sea trout swimming near the Danish coasts lived in a farming environment where they could be vaccinated before being released into nature.

Read more about the new results in studies just published in the journal PLOS ONE 12(2) (Marana et al. 2017).

Contact: 
Professer Kurt Buchmann, Email: kub@sund.ku.dk, Phone: +45 35 33 27 00