Malaysia: Parasitic infection spreading among caged fish near Pulau Jerejak

PHUAH KEN LIN New Straits Times 26 Nov 16;

GEORGE TOWN: A parasite infection is spreading among caged fish bred and raised in waters off Pulau Jerejak here.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) molecular parasitology lecturer from the School of Biological Sciences Dr Zary Shariman Yahaya said caged fish infection by the Neobenedenia Melleni parasite has been on the rise globally due to rapid coastal development.

The parasite feeds on the gills of scaly tropical fish, making them unhealthy and unfit for human consumption.

"The parasite thrives on layers of sludge in murky waters. They cause distress to fish’s health and kill marine habitats.

"Caged fish operators are having a difficult time segregating healthy fish from unhealthy ones, and making sure that the ones that make it to the dining table are disease-free," he told the New Straits Times after speaking at a seminar at the Changkat Minden main campus here yesterday.

Of the 400 samplings taken from caged fish operators here, Zary said 380, or almost 95 per cent of the examined fish, were affected by the parasite.

Asked about the cure for the disease, Zary said USM has begun testing vaccines in the form of fish pellets.

"The aim is to boost the fish’s immunity, as the current method of vaccination is too costly.

"Our research works are ongoing to make vaccination more affordable for the caged fish industry," he said.

Zary said it is imperative that the parasite infection is contained in order to protect vulnerable marine habitats.

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