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How an Alligator Gene in Farming Catfish will Help Defend Against Infection

By Jasmine Biju

Genetic engineering has proposed an opportunity to reduce infections prevalent in farmed catfish. Aeromonas Hydrophila is a disease that is threatening the catfish farming industry causing rapid death among the population. The malady has ravaged the species and its implications can be seen economically: Alabama catfish farmers have lost $13.5 million in revenue due to medical expenses, chemical treatments, and lost feeding days at the hands of the species’ increased mortality rate. A team of aquatic scientists at Auburn University has discovered a resolution to this problem—the solution being an alligator gene.


Catfish farms are highly profitable businesses that are especially prominent in the Southern United States. The uprising of disease to which catfish are susceptible proposes a threat to the business’ economic prosperity, in which the profit yielded is significantly lower due the implications of the disease strain. Thus, researchers at Auburn University turned to alligator genes in hopes to capitalize on their genetic advantages.


CRISPR is a powerful and complex technology that edits various parts of the genome by the alteration of nitrogenous base sequencing. The Auburn scientists discovered the efficacy of the alligator gene in farmed catfish in order to fend off potent infections. This gene codes for a protein called cathelicidin which helps prevent potential infections. In the context of alligators, this gene is beneficial during combat among alligators themselves. The promising possibilities of the gene raised questions on its potential to be implemented in farmed catfish, which have been collectively suffering from infection.


In the experiment, the team inserted the gene into the genome of the farmed catfish. The gene was inserted into the reproductive region to ensure the fish remained infertile, which is important in experimentation regarding genetic modifications. The results were promising—the genetically engineered fish had a survival rate that was 100% to 400% greater as compared to other native catfish. Though the results are intriguing, this is the beginning of longer experimentation to come. As scientists further scrutinize the potential of genetically-engineered farming catfish as a long-term solution to malady, the possibility of enforcing this as an established solution may become more attainable.


Sources

  1. Yirka, B. “Adding an alligator gene to reduce infections in farmed catfish.” Phys, 2022, https://phys.org/news/2023-02-adding-alligator-gene-infections-farmed.html

  2. “What is CRISPR-Cas9?” Your Genome, https://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-crispr-cas9/





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