Fish diseases Lab

The edible fish industry’s annual production reaches about twenty five thousand tons, and includes various fish species. Their cultivation is spread across specialized branches (monoculture): cold water fish (Salmonids), warm water fish (Tilapia, Carps, Mullet and more), or polyculture cultivation (the cultivation of various species together). Alongside the fresh water cultivation, there are also sea water cultivations which include the production of Denisse (Gilt-Head Bream), European Seabass and Meagre (Argyrosomus). In total, here are about seventy active farms in this industry.

Another field which has been rapidly growing in recent years is the cultivation of ornamental fish, mostly intended for export purposes. In total, there are about fifty farms working in this field, some of which cultivate cold water ornamental fish, while others cultivate tropical fish.

Since fish diseases are, for the most part, related specifically to the species of fish, the temperature of the body of water and the specifics of the cultivating habitat, the Israeli fish industry is the most heterogeneous when it comes to disease variety out of all of the animal industries in Israel.

Since fish are vertebrate, they fall under the jurisdiction of the Animal Disease Ordinance (New version) 1985, and the jurisdiction of the Animal Disease Regulations (Animal importation) 1974. In 1996 Professor Arnon Shimshony, who was then the director of the Veterinary Services, decided on the creation of a laboratory for fish diseases within the Kimron Veterinary Institute. The initial tasks of the laboratory included the tracking and monitoring of diseases (existing and emerging) which have a national effect, and the creation of a system for their diagnosis. Later on, the laboratory was tasked with statutory roles which include tracking and reporting registered diseases, issuing import permits, and activities related to the prevention of the spread of fish diseases performed together with enforcement activities.

A description of the laboratory for fish diseases

The laboratory for fish diseases is located in a separate building of about three hundred square meters that was used in the past for the production of the vaccine for the Foot and Mouth Disease. The laboratory is equipped with specialized arrays for the diagnosis of all the registered bacterial and viral diseases in Israel, whether the diseases is registered, not registered or emerging. The laboratory does not offer the everyday veterinary services which are offered by the private veterinary doctors.

In order to diagnose viral diseases, the laboratory is equipped with about fifteen rows of cells, some of which are general (those enabling the culture of several viruses) and some specialized (tailored for the needs of specific viruses, for instance, rows for Sturgeons). The various rows are regularly grown in two separate systems, one for viruses requiring low temperatures (meaning eighteen degrees Centigrade), and the other for viruses who are active in higher temperatures (twenty three degrees Centigrade).

The bacteriological diagnostic array is similar in form to the viral one, and it too includes a system for the cultivation of bacteria active in low temperatures (sixteen degrees Centigrade) and for bacteria active in higher temperatures (twenty three to twenty six degrees Centigrade).

The level of service is compatible with the requirements made by the international community, and the laboratory regularly takes part in tests performed by the European Union.

The two diagnostic arrays are constructed so that the response time will be as short as made possible by the available technology, and are based on the maximal utilization of molecular diagnostic methods. The move from “classical” diagnostic methods – which require a long response period (between three days to one month) – that included classical bacteriology and virology, Immunohistochemistry and pathology, was completed two years ago.

Currently, the classical methods have been preserved for research purposes only, or in order to provide a response for specific requests. The vast majority of the tests are performed in the method of molecular identification, whose response time is between twenty four to forty eight hours.

We are currently in the middle of the process of moving from singular testing to testing performed in the Multiplex method – diagnosis at the level of the syndrome. When this process shall be completed the duration of the secondary tests will become insignificant.