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Biologist who discovered tilapia lake virus says eradicating it is 'doable'

Resistance is strong among previously infected fish.

Though tilapia lake virus (TiLV) has hit three continents and has caught the eye of the United States, where it hasn't been detected yet, the biologist who first discovered the disease is nixing ideas it could be the next infectious salmon anemia (ISA). 

Eran Bacharach, a professor in Tel Aviv University's School of Molecular Cell Biology & Biotechnology, calls himself a "newcomer" to the seafood world. 

He entered the industry when Dr. Avi Eldar, a fish disease specialist at the national Kimron Veterinary Institute, "noticed a disease in tilapia in the Sea of Gililea," Bacharach told IntraFish

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After Eldar began noticing the disease in commercial fisheries across northern and central Israel, he and Bacharach began to try and get to the bottom of the puzzling virus. 

The duo, with the help of Columbia University Professor Ian Lipkin, was "able to decode the entire genome of this virus," Bacharach said. "It's quite a new virus. Quite interestingly, its genes have almost no similarity to other known viral genes." 

"We published the ways to detect this virus and now you can see more and more reports about this virus in South America, the Middle East and now also in Asia," he said. 

"We believe that it is present in large parts of the world, causing serious outbreaks. 

"It is a threat to the tilapia industry."  

Bacharach and Eldar were able to inject tilapia with the virus during testing. 

While "you could see very significant percent of mortality, up to 70 or 80 percent," the fish that survived the infection were heartily resistant to the virus, he said. 

This makes him optimistic regarding the ability to combat TiLV-related disease. 

"I think it's very doable to develop vaccines for this," he said. 

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