The CALS Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory

Don Lightner and Loc Tran, a graduate student working on a new disease of shrimp from Southeast Asia, examine shrimp from a farm in Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of Don Lightner)
Don Lightner and Loc Tran, a graduate student working on a new disease of shrimp from Southeast Asia, examine shrimp from a farm in Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of Don Lightner)

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory (APL) is a self-supporting entity located in the Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology on the University of Arizona’s main campus. The APL is an OIE (Office International des Epizooties = World Animal Health) Reference Laboratory and a U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) approved laboratory for testing of live shrimp and other products intended for export.

The APL provides three types of services and a research function that is available to the domestic and foreign shrimp culture industries: 1) disease diagnostic, surveillance and reference lab services from our main diagnostic lab; 2) quarantine and disease challenge services at our West Campus aquaculture facility; 3) technical services and training to governments, companies and aquaculture cooperatives located in the U.S., Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Oceania, and east and southeast Asia; and 4) a variety of applied research projects for U.S.-based and foreign companies.

The APL processed and reported the results from about 20,000 individual specimens in 2012. Approximately 30% of the case submissions were for disease diagnosis, while the remaining 70% were submitted for surveillance purposes, i.e., health status assurance and specific pathogen-free certification for live shrimp or aquatic animal products being moved in international commerce. Methods used by the APL include routine histological methods, classical microbiology, DNA probes (dot blot and in situ hybridization), immunohistochemistry, standard PCR/RT-PCR, and qPCR/qRT-PCR.

“We offer quarantine and disease challenge studies, primarily to commercial shrimp breeding companies in Hawaii and Florida which request laboratory disease challenge studies to evaluate genetic gains in disease resistance to several OIE-listed shrimp virus diseases,” said Donald Lightner, professor of veterinary science and microbiology. “Our service to the domestic shrimp industry, to foreign governments and to foreign shrimp aquaculture industries is funded entirely from technical assistance or service contracts or from cost recovery on a fee-for-service basis. Our research activities are aimed at developing new tests for shrimp disease diagnosis and for evaluating specific antibacterial and antiviral compounds.”

Lightner also teaches two courses. Aquaculture is offered each spring. Shrimp Pathology, a two-week short course, is offered each summer session. The latter has been offered 27 times since 1989 (including two special courses for APHIS veterinarians and for the Chinese government) and it has had over 700 participants from 59 countries.

Lightner became interested in the diseases of aquatic animals when he worked as a trout farm technician for the Colorado Game and Fish Department. The trout farm was suffering significant losses from a common disease of farm-raised trout, so the farm manager began a treatment for the disease without first checking the hardness of the source water. By the time the “treatment” was complete, several tons of trout had died and Lightner was assigned the task of burial of those fish. With that background, he focused his graduate studies on becoming a fish pathologist.

Date released: 
Mar 11 2013
Contact: 
Donald Lightner