Molecular and Genomic Research and Development
BC CAHS has the capacity to isolate pathogens from infected fish. Where possible, we culture the pathogen, or collect enough genetic material to allow us to purify the material. From there we send the purified material out for sequencing. Once we have the sequences back, our scientists ‘read’ the genetic code to highlight the coding and identify the known codes for identification. We can see if the pathogen has weaknesses and strengths to help fashion mitigation strategies and minimize treatments that might be harmful to the fish or the environment. In addition, it helps fish health professionals to use therapeutic products judiciously and responsibly.
Another key point about unraveling the genetic code of pathogens is specific identification. By sequencing the pathogen genome, we can detect minute changes in the pathogen to assign a signature or fingerprint. A good use of this is pathogen flow between populations such as farmed and wild salmon. Who got the bug first: wild or farmed? Was it brought here from somewhere else? We can provide this information for those who require it.
Another bonus to genetic signature is establishing virulence (how ‘catchy’ the bug is) and pathogenicity (how deadly the bug is). We can also track mutation; some pathogens become extremely harmful when they mutate, such as some marine algae. Infection may not mean disease. This means that fish can have a pathogen, but not express disease. Molecular testing and genomic signature can help fish health professionals know that a pathogen may be present in low numbers, or is of a benign type and monitor the situation.
By knowing the genetic code of pathogens and by having the equipment to isolate and detect the pathogens specifically, BC CAHS can help protect our marine resources and preserve our most precious asset – our salmon.