Shrimp industry veteran and aquatic animal disease expert professor Donald Lightner died May 5 in Tucson, Arizona.

Lightner was widely credited for his instrumental role in delivering the global shrimp industry from the grips of Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) in 2012 and 2013, a disease that was wiping out shrimp throughout Asia, and in some places slashing production in half.

After studying the disease for many years, in mid-2013, Lightner and his team at the University of Arizona made the discovery the pathogen was caused by bacteria rather than a virus.

Then, in January 2014, he unveiled a solution for detecting this bacteria and allowing infected populations to be separated from healthy ones, paving the way for recovery.

Lightner and assistant staff scientist Linda Nunan created a rapid diagnostic test capable of detecting the genetic differences between the pathogenic and non-pathogenic versions of the common marine bacterium, Vibrio parahaemolyuticus, which causes the disease.

"Developing the diagnostic has been a complex process," Lightner said at the time, "but now that we’ve got that done, I’m just delighted that we have a clearly defined way to get it out to the world to help solve the problem."

In the 1970s, Lightner put together a team of researchers at the University of Arizona that provided much of the basic knowledge on shrimp disease and health, which enabled shrimp aquaculture to grow into a global industry that now supplies more than half of all the shrimp consumed around the world.

An announcement from the University of Arizona, where he spent most of his career, said "the world of aquaculture, especially aquatic animal disease specialists, has lost an icon."

Virtually every shrimp disease expert in the world has had some connection with Lightner and the Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, the statement read.

"Don’s contributions were both applied on his visits to farms around the world and academic with hundreds of scientific articles, industry reports, conference presentations, graduate students, and short courses," the university added.

"He will be missed by his family and friends, and by academic and industry colleagues around the world."