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12 December 2012 - Winning combination of bacteria found to combat deadly marine pathogen

Lobster larvae experimentally infected by the pathogen. The pathogen has been labelled with a green fluorescent protein. Image: Evan Goulden.

Research conducted at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has delivered promising results in combating Vibrio owensii - a bacterium that is responsible for mass mortalities of cultured ornate spiny lobster larvae.

The high commercial value of the ornate spiny lobster (Panulirus ornatus) means it has the potential to be an important product of the Australian aquaculture industry. However, nutritional deficits and bacterial disease during the long larval phase of the species makes captive rearing difficult.

Scientists from AIMS and the University of New England (UNE) have been able to isolate a large number of bacterial cultures – or probiotic candidates – from wild lobster larvae and their natural prey items, and from the lobster aquaculture system at AIMS in Townsville. After successive tests, they found that a combination of two probiotic bacteria, referred to as PP05 and PP107, provided the most effective protection against the pathogen Vibrio owensii, enhancing survival of the larvae by as much as 80 per cent.

AIMS Research Scientist, Dr Lone Høj, who led the project, said  "Our work has uncovered a winning combination of "good" bacteria that appear to dramatically improve larval survival. In a further study we looked at how and why these two bacteria were so effective when working together against Vibrio owensii."

UNE PhD student Evan Goulden said "This research highlights the value of identifying biocontrol agents that are able to intercept the infection cycle of a serious aquaculture pathogen, as suchthe study represents a milestone in proving the value of using probiotic mixes to prevent microbial diseases."

 "Disease management is critical in food production systems and this is particularly true for seafood produced in aquaculture systems. The development of alternatives to the antibiotics currently used in such systems is becoming a national priority in countries around the world" says AIMS Principal Research Scientist, Dr Mike Hall.

 ‘Identification of an Antagonistic Probiotic Combination Protecting Ornate Spiny Lobster (Panulirus ornatus) Larvae against Vibrio owensii Infection' is published in PLoS One: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0039667

Probiont niche specialization contributes to additive protection against Vibrio owensii in spiny lobster larvae' is published in Environmental Microbiology Reports: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1758-2229.12007/abstract

The authors are Evan Goulden (AIMS/UNE), Mike Hall (AIMS), Lily Pereg (UNE), Brett Baillie (AIMS), and Lone Høj (AIMS).

Media contacts:

Dr Lone Høj, Research Scientist, (07) 4753 4364; 0408 716 094; l.hoj@aims.gov.au

Dr Evan Goulden, Research Assistant, University of New England,0439 446 204, egoulde2@une.edu.au

Dr Lily Pereg, Senior Lecturer, University of New England, (02) 67732708, 0427063057, lily.pereg@une.edu.au

Wendy Ellery, AIMS Media Liaison, (07) 4753 4409, 0418 729 265, w.ellery@aims.gov.au