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Catfish genome research complete

STARKVILLE — The best way to battle a pathogen affecting the state’s catfish industry is to know as much about it as possible, and Mississippi State University (MSU) researchers have taken a major step in that direction.

Researchers at MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) released the genome sequence of Edwardsiella ictaluri 93-146, the most important pathogen affecting the state’s channel catfish aquaculture industry. Dr. Mark Lawrence, a CVM professor of basic sciences, was the lead investigator of the project, which was completed this summer.

A genome is the complete genetic material of a living organism. To map the genome sequence of Edwardsiella ictaluri, the research team determined the exact order of more than 3.8 million DNA bases that make up its chromosome.

Once this data was collected and verified, almost 4,000 genes were identified and labeled. Then the sequence was officially released to GenBank, the world’s database for genetic sequencing information.

“Researchers around the world can now access this information to accelerate their research on development of new vaccines and treatments for the disease,” Lawrence said.

MSU collaborated on this genetic project primarily with researchers from the Laboratory for Genomics & Bioinformatics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine was also involved, and the work was funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant.

“Edwardsiella ictaluri is the causative agent of enteric septicemia of catfish, or ESC,” Lawrence said. “This is a significant disease of farm-raised catfish. The acute form of ESC causes bacterial septicemia, which rapidly leads to death. The chronic form of this disease causes a characteristic head lesion that also may proceed to septicemia and death.”

ESC only occurs in channel catfish, and according to a 2003 report from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, ESC is the most prevalent disease affecting the channel catfish aquaculture industry.


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