Applications of Microalgal Biotechnology for Disease Control in Aquaculture
Abstract: Aquaculture industries, and in particular the farming of fish and crustaceans, are major contributors to the economy of many countries and an increasingly important component in global food supply. However, the severe impact of aquatic microbial diseases on production performance remains a challenge to these industries. This article considers the potential applications of microalgal technology in the control of such diseases. At the simplest level, microalgae offer health-promoting benefits as a nutritional supplement in feed meal because of their digestibility and high content of proteins, lipids and essential nutrients. Furthermore, some microalgal species possess natural anti-microbial compounds or contain biomolecules that can serve as immunostimulants. In addition, emerging genetic engineering technologies in microalgae offer the possibility of producing ‘functional feed additives’ in which novel and specific bioactives, such as fish growth hormones, anti-bacterials, subunit vaccines, and virus-targeted interfering RNAs, are components of the algal supplement. The evaluation of such technologies for farm applications is an important step in the future development of sustainable aquaculture.
Microalgae have been shown to have potential to improve aquaculture production. The nutritional benefits of using microalgae as a source of proteins, lipids, and essential micronutrients in the feed are proven and are now being applied at the farm scale. Microalgae also offer opportunities for natural protection against microbial pathogens and, hence, disease prevention through the production of natural anti-microbial compounds and immunostimulants. Given that there are more than 10,000 species of freshwater and marine microalgae identified to date, but only a tiny percentage have been screened for such compounds, there is clearly a rich untapped resource for such bioactives. Furthermore, the rapidly developing field of algal genetic engineering and synthetic biology opens the door to designer strains that can serve as functional feed additives, supplying both natural nutrition and a suite of beneficial recombinants for both disease prevention and improved growth. Responsible adoption of this emerging biotechnology will help contribute to a sustainable aquaculture industry and the promotion of global food security.
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