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Super Shrimps Are Here To Fight Hunger & Prevent Diseases

In a research published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, A group of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU)for the first time have developed “Super shrimps” which produces only female offsprings. The all-female population could increase aquaculture yields, act as a natural agent to prevent the spread of water-bound parasites, and protect the environment.

The research was headed by BGU Prof. Amir Sagi, who is also a member of the National Institute for Biotechnology (NIBN), and, Tom Levy, a Ph.D. student. It was in collaboration with Enzootic, a Beer-Sheva, Israel-based startup company who specialize in all-female mono-sex aquaculture biotechnologies.

The main focus was to achieve an all-female population in economically significant prawn- Macrobrachium rosenbergii. It was achieved for the first time by androgenic gland cells transplantation which caused full sex reversal of WW females to fully functional males. Later crossing WW males with WW females yielded all-female progeny lacking the Z chromosome.

As explained by Tom Levy, Monosex population was achieved without the use of any hormones or genetic modification, achieving mono-sex population and addressing ecological concerns. Prawns also serve as a biocontrol agent against parasite carrying snails. The mono-sex population of prawns reduces the hazard of prawns becoming the invasive species.

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BGU group highlights the development of a ‘super shrimp’ which, for the first time, only produces female offspring. Credit: Dr. Eli Aflalo

The study follows a publication in July in Nature Sustainability, which stated that the freshwater prawn act as biocontrol agent by preying on aquatic snail species. These snails serve as intermediate hosts for parasites causing schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa. The mono-sex prawns can prevent the spread of parasites, are economical and environment-friendly.

Prof. Sagi added that Integrated aquaculture-based interventions could be a great strategy for fighting schistosomiasis in endemic regions of the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 220.8 million people require preventive treatment for schistosomiasis in a year.

This study included minds like Prof. Sagi, Dr. Amit Savaya of BGU along with a large team of researchers around the world lead by Prof. Giulio De Leo of Stanford University who worked on control strategies super shrimps aquaculture to reduce intermediate host snail populations and mass drug administration to treat infected individuals. Both the strategies worked best together.

Author: Swetha Kulkarni


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